What is renal transitional cell carcinoma?

Updated: Nov 05, 2019
  • Author: Bagi RP Jana, MD, MBA, MHA, FACP; Chief Editor: E Jason Abel, MD  more...
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Renal transitional cell carcinoma (TCC), or renal urothelial carcinoma (UC), is a malignant tumor arising from the transitional (urothelial) epithelial cells lining the urinary tract from the renal calyces to the ureteral orifice (see the image below). UC is the most common tumor of the renal pelvis. Over 80,000 cases of bladder cancer are diagnosed annually in the United States. Upper urinary tract TCC is estimated to occur in 5% of all urothelial cancers and in fewer than 10% of renal tumors. Evidence indicates that the frequency of upper urinary tract malignancies is increasing. [1]

Right retrograde pyelogram demonstrates large fill Right retrograde pyelogram demonstrates large filling defect in midureter due to transitional cell carcinoma (large arrow). Note characteristic appearance of radiographic contrast material just distal to obstruction (small arrow), which gives rise to so-called goblet sign. Contrast is also visible beyond partially obstructed segment of ureter in renal pelvis and collecting system.

See Renal Cell Carcinoma: Recognition and Follow-up, a Critical Images slideshow, to help evaluate renal masses and determine when and what type of follow-up is necessary.

Surgical intervention is the main form of radical treatment for localized disease. Medical therapy usually is administered as an adjuvant to surgical therapy or to patients in whom surgical treatment is contraindicated (eg, because of poor general condition or the presence of advanced disease). The role of radiation therapy in the management of upper urinary tract TCC is not well defined.

For patient education resources, see the Cancer Health Center, as well as Blood in the Urine (Hematuria).

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