Our kidneys work ceaselessly to filter out waste from the blood, producing urine. The urine then travels through the urinary tract—a group of organs that work together to drain urine from the body. These organs grow cells that help to process and transport the urine. But occasionally, something will go wrong. A change in the DNA (known as a mutation) can cause abnormal cells to grow along the urinary tract, forming a cancerous tumor.
Cancers of the urinary tract (or urologic cancers) may be linked to environmental, lifestyle, genetic and other factors. Over the years, methods for detecting and treating urologic cancers have improved, and patients are now offered a range of options to suit their goals and needs.
“Fortunately, the majority of urologic cancers that are detected are found at early stages, when they are still confined to the organ,” says Michael Leapman, MD, a Yale Medicine urologic oncologist, who is also part of Yale Cancer Center at Smilow Cancer Hospital at Yale New Haven. “Diagnosing and treating some cancers at an early stage has been essential to improving outcomes.”