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Renal Pelvis Cancer

< Urologic Cancer

Renal Pelvis Cancer

About Renal Pelvis Cancer

Transitional cell cancer of the renal pelvis and ureter is a disease in which malignant (cancer) cells form in the renal pelvis and ureter.

The renal pelvis is the top part of the ureter. The ureter is a long tube that connects the kidney to the bladder. There are two kidneys, one on each side of the backbone, above the waist. The kidneys of an adult are about 5 inches long and 3 inches wide and are shaped like a kidney bean. Tiny tubules in the kidneys filter and clean the blood. They take out waste products and make urine. The urine collects in the middle of each kidney in the renal pelvis. Urine passes from the renal pelvis through the ureter into the bladder. The bladder holds the urine until it passes through the urethra and leaves the body.

The renal pelvis and ureters are lined with transitional cells. These cells can change shape and stretch without breaking apart. Transitional cell cancer starts in these cells. Transitional cell cancer can form in the renal pelvis or the ureter or both.

Renal cell cancer is a more common type of kidney cancer. See the PDQ summary about Renal Cell Cancer Treatment for more information.


Signs and symptoms of transitional cell cancer of the renal pelvis and ureter include blood in the urine and back pain.

These and other signs and symptoms may be caused by transitional cell cancer of the renal pelvis and ureter or by other conditions. There may be no signs or symptoms in the early stages. Signs and symptoms may appear as the tumor grows. Check with your doctor if you have any of the following:

  • Blood in the urine.
  • A pain in the back that doesn't go away.
  • Extreme tiredness.
  • Weight loss with no known reason.
  • Painful or frequent urination.

Risk Factors

Misuse of certain pain medicines can affect the risk of transitional cell cancer of the renal pelvis and ureter.

Risk factors for transitional cell cancer of the renal pelvis and ureter include the following:

  • Misusing certain pain medicines, including over-the-counter pain medicines, for a long time.
  • Being exposed to certain dyes and chemicals used in making leather goods, textiles, plastics, and rubber.
  • Smoking cigarettes.

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