Cancer of the urethra, the tube that transports your urine from your bladder to the tip of your penis, is a rare malignancy that affects men more often than women. When a cancerous mass forms inside your urethra, it blocks the flow of urine and semen out of your penis.
There are many diseases that can hinder your semen and urine from flowing unimpeded out of your penis, and urethral cancer is one of the more serious ones. Plus, when you get treated for it, you’ll most likely end up developing sexual dysfunction. Read on to learn about how urethral cancer can affect your sexual health.
Urethral cancer is a disease that affects both sexes. However, the signs and symptoms differ between sexes and so do the treatment options. For men, urethral cancer is most likely to result in sexual problems as well as reduced infertility, mainly due to the location of the cancerous growth.
Cancer of the urethra means that a certain type of cell in your urethra has started to grow abnormally and form a malignant mass. Because of the fact that both your semen and your urine pass through your urethra to exit your body, it means that both your ejaculatory and urinary functions will be negatively impacted when you have urethral cancer.
In addition, urethral cancer may also result in erection problems as well as fertility issues. Depending on which part of your urethra is affected, the cancerous mass may block the passage of your sperm, resulting in a reduced sperm concentration in your ejaculate. Moreover, the treatments for urethral cancer may also cause sexual dysfunction.
Urethral cancer makes up only less than a percent of urologic malignancies. And because the condition is quite rare, there hasn’t been a lot of scientific studies conducted about the subject. Unlike prostate cancer wherein new treatments have been developed, treatment modalities for urethral cancer have not changed much over the years.
Symptoms of Urethral Cancer in Men
The male urethra is structurally different than the female urethra, hence, the symptoms of urethral cancer also differ between men and women affected by the disease. What is common between the two sexes is that urethral cancer tends to spread to the adjacent soft tissues.
What makes urethral cancer even more problematic is that it can be asymptomatic during the early stages. This means that you may not even notice that a cancerous mass is already growing in your urethra.
Moreover, some of the early symptoms in men are similar to benign stricture disease such as bladder outlet obstruction. When the disease progresses, some of the symptoms are like those caused by urinary tract infections or benign prostatic hyperplasia. These symptoms include hematuria and pain in the perineum or surrounding area.
Just like BPH or enlarged prostate, urethral cancer also causes urinary symptoms. These include painful urination, nocturia or frequent urination at night, diminished urine stream, and straining to urinate. You may also develop urinary incontinence or even urinary retention.
You may also find blood mixed with your semen, a condition called hematospermia. Urethral cancer may also cause perineal or urethral pain. You may also notice a foul-smelling or watery discharge leaking out of your penis.
Other symptoms that may appear when urethral cancer has already advanced include abscess formation in the urethra and urethral fistula. The latter means that a hole has formed in your urethra, so semen and urine leak somewhere else when you ejaculate or urinate.
Because of the fact that urethral cancer is rare and the symptoms are similar to those caused by other diseases, urethral cancer is often misdiagnosed. If you failed to have yourself examined during the early stages because the disease had no symptoms, it can also contribute to the delay in the proper diagnosis of urethral cancer.
Treatment modalities for urethral cancer in men depend on the location and the cancer stage. If the malignant growth is located in the part of your urethra that’s in your penis, it’s classified as distal urethral cancer. If the growth is located in the part of your urethra that’s closer to your bladder or prostate gland, then it’s called proximal urethral cancer.
For distal urethral cancer in men, treatment options include transurethral resection surgery to remove the tumor. If the tumor is located very near the tip of your penis, your doctor may perform a partial penectomy to remove the part of the penis where the tumor is located.
If the cancerous growth is located in the proximal part of your urethra or if it affects your entire urethra, your doctor may recommend radiation and chemotherapy. This may then be followed by surgical procedures such as penectomy, cystoprostatectomy, and lymph node dissection.
Urethral Cancer and Sexual Dysfunction
When the malignant growth inside your urethra has grown to a significant size, it can cause the part of your urethra where the cancerous growth is located to become narrow, a condition called urethral stricture.
When you have urethral cancer, you may experience painful ejaculations. That may be due to the cancerous growth getting irritated when semen flows past it, or it may be due to the urethral blockage caused by the cancerous growth. Your ejaculatory muscles may need to exert more pressure to force your semen past the blockage, causing pain during ejaculation.
Urethral cancer may also cause priapism, a condition wherein you suffer from a painful erection that persists for several hours or even longer. Priapism can also cause permanent damage to your erectile function.
Once the cancerous growth has spread to the adjacent tissues in your penis, urethral cancer may also cause erectile dysfunction. Moreover, the treatments for urethral cancer are also known to have adverse sexual effects like reduced libido, erectile dysfunction, and even infertility.
Managing Sexual Dysfunction
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