Genitourinary oncology is a specialized field of medicine which focuses on cancer found in the urinary system of men and women and in the male reproductive system. Six types of cancers fall under the genitourinary umbrella, with prostate, bladder, and kidney cancer being the most common among this group which often occur in individuals who are older than age 55.
This cancer is second only to skin cancer in the frequency it occurs in men in the U.S. According to the American Cancer Society, nearly 250,000 individuals are expected to be diagnosed with the disease this year, with approximately 34,000 deaths resulting from it. About one in eight men will develop prostate cancer during their lifetime, but most men diagnosed do not die from it. More than 3.1 million men living in the U.S. today were diagnosed with the disease at some point.
“It’s very important for men to undergo a prostate exam and a prostate-specific antigen blood test on an annual basis once they turn 50,” said Arya Khatiwoda, DO, a urologist with McLaren Greater Lansing and Michigan State University’s College of Osteopathic Medicine. “Getting an annual exam and test is the best way to detect prostate cancer early.”
Some men who are predisposed to prostate cancer might undergo an annual exam starting at age 40, but the American Cancer Society recommends that men who are at average risk for the disease start having annual checkups at age 50.
Prostate cancer usually does not cause any symptoms during its early stages, but more-advanced cases could result in difficulty urinating, as well as blood in the urine. Blood in the urine can also be a sign of bladder cancer, along with urinating more than usual, or experiencing pain or a burning sensation while doing so.
This cancer type is the fourth most common in men in the U.S., but it occurs less frequently in women, according to the American Cancer Society. Bladder cancer most often occurs in individuals who are 64 to 74 years of age. It is projected that roughly 84,000 people will be diagnosed with it this year and 17,000 deaths will result from the disease.
Men are diagnosed with bladder cancer approximately three times as often as women. However, women are more likely to be diagnosed later in life and have a worse prognosis.
While hematuria or blood in the urine is the most common sign of bladder cancer, pain or a burning sensation while urinating can be a less common sign of bladder cancer. It can also be a symptom of a urinary tract infection (UTI). Because men’s chances of having a UTI are dramatically lower than women’s, men often undergo more detailed tests related to the possibility of bladder cancer.
“More aggressive initial testing is done with men,” Dr. Khatiwoda said. “You might not get to the level of evaluation with women as quickly as you do with men.”
This type of cancer occurs in nearly twice as many men as women, according to the American Cancer Society. Approximately 76,000 kidney cancer cases are expected to be diagnosed in the U.S. this year, with nearly 14,000 deaths attributed to the disease.
Kidney cancer is often diagnosed incidentally when someone undergoes a test such as an ultrasound, a CT scan, or an MRI for an ailment such as back pain.
When it comes to prostate cancer, surgery or radiation remain treatment staples, but immunotherapy is becoming more common when dealing with bladder and kidney cancer.
“It increases your body’s ability to fight cancer,” Dr. Khatiwoda said of the therapy. “It helps strengthen the body’s immune system.”
Having said that, Dr. Khatiwoda stresses that undergoing checkups and tests at prescribed times are critical to reducing the chances of a man dying from prostate cancer. Tests and examinations are also critical when it comes to determining if someone has bladder or kidney cancer.
“Things that can prevent you from becoming ill should be done on an annual basis,” said Dr. Khatiwoda. “When someone is feeling well, it can be hard to get them to take tests and get checked out because they are feeling good. But it is important to undergo screenings even if you are feeling well so nothing is overlooked.”
An annual exam with a primary care physician is the best prevention for a genitourinary cancer. For a list of primary care physicians at McLaren Greater Lansing accepting new patients, click here.
McLaren Greater Lansing’s Genitourinary Multidisciplinary Clinic provides comprehensive care for patients and their caregivers and helps streamline the complex system of care so patients and those who care for them can be seen by a team of physicians on the same day at the same location in a setup where the doctors come to them.
About McLaren Greater Lansing
McLaren Greater Lansing and McLaren Orthopedic Hospital operate the region’s most distinguished cardiovascular and orthopedic surgery programs that—together with McLaren Greater Lansing’s oncology, women’s care and wide-ranging diagnostic, therapeutic and surgical services—consistently lead in clinical quality and efficiency. The hospitals are part of McLaren Health Care, mid-Michigan’s largest health care system. Visit mclaren.org/lansing.
About McLaren Health Care
McLaren Health Care, headquartered in Grand Blanc, Michigan, is a fully integrated health network committed to quality, evidence-based patient care and cost efficiency. The McLaren system includes 14 hospitals, ambulatory surgery centers, imaging centers, a 490-member employed primary and specialty care physician network, commercial and Medicaid HMOs covering more than 620,000 lives in Michigan and Indiana, home health and hospice providers, retail medical equipment showrooms, pharmacy services, and a wholly owned medical malpractice insurance company. McLaren operates Michigan’s largest network of cancer centers and providers, anchored by the Barbara Ann Karmanos Cancer Institute, one of only 49 National Cancer Institute-designated comprehensive cancer centers in the U.S. McLaren has 26,000 employees and more than 85,500 network providers. Its operations are housed in more than 350 facilities serving Michigan and Indiana.