Urothelial carcinoma of the upper urinary tract is relatively rare, occurring in 5% of all urothelial tumors. Ureteral urothelial carcinoma is even less common than that of the renal pelvis, accounting for about 25% of all upper urinary tract tumors. The aim of this study was to evaluate the clinical behavior, survival, recurrence and prognostic information of primary ureteral urothelial carcinoma from our 11 years of experience at the Taipei Veterans General Hospital.
We retrospectively reviewed 111 patients with ureteral urothelial carcinoma who had been treated in our hospital between January 1993 and December 2003. Tumor staging was according to the 2002 AJCC TNM classification and stage groupings. Patients with stage 0a and stage 0is were categorized as stage 0a/is, and patients with pathologic T stage pTa and pTis were categorized as pTa/is for statistical analysis. The Kaplan-Meier method was used for survival analysis.
There were 69 males and 42 females, with a mean age of 70.5 ± 9.4 years at diagnosis. Of the 111 patients, 5 presented with stage 0a/is, 38 with stage I, 23 with stage II, 21 with stage III, and 24 with stage IV. Nephroureterectomy with bladder cuff excision was performed in 78 patients, 12 patients received segmental resection of the ureter, 4 received ureteroscopic laser coagulation, and 17 underwent chemotherapy or radiotherapy or both. Tumors were located on the left side in 53 patients, on the right in 53, and bilaterally in 5. The most frequent initial presenting symptom was gross hematuria (65%). The mean postoperative follow-up period was 49.3 months. Disease recurrence in the nephroureterectomy group occurred in 36 patients (46.2%), with 17 (21.8%) at the urinary bladder, 2 (2.6%) at the retroperitoneum, 1 (1.3%) at the contralateral ureter, 6 (7.7%) with distant metastases to the lung, bone, distant lymph nodes or liver, and 10 (12.8%) at multiple sites. The 5-year cancer-specific survival rate was 100% for pTa/is, 95.2% for pT1, 69.4% for pT2, and 43.8% for pT3. All 3 pT4 cases died of cancer in a median of 12 months. Significant prognostic factors for cancer-specific survival by univariate analysis were pT (p = 0.00001), stage (p = 0.00001), type of treatment (p = 0.00001) and grade (p = 0.0001). On multivariate analysis, only stage (p = 0.0001) and grade (p = 0.014) were significant for cancer-specific and overall survival. Stage (p = 0.0001), pT (p =0.0001) and grade (p = 0.026) were also significant prognostic factors of recurrence in multivariate analysis.
Our experience showed that patients with pTa/is and pT1 tumors treated with radical surgery have excellent prognoses. Tumor stage and grade are the only significant prognostic factors for both cancer-specific and overall survival.