Guy with UTUC wearing vest

Glossary of key terms

Are any of the words on this website confusing? This glossary helps explain what all of these medical terms mean.

Silhouette of guy with UTUC

Biopsy

A medical test in which body tissue or cells are studied to look for a disease and figure out how dangerous that disease might be. A biopsy usually involves a minor operation to get a sample of body tissue and cells to be studied.

Bladder

The organ inside the body that stores urine until it is time to urinate. It is flexible and can get bigger or smaller based on how much urine is inside.

Catheter

A tube that is inserted into the bladder to remove urine from the body. One end of the catheter is inserted through the penis or vagina, up the urethra and into the bladder. The other end is connected to a bag that holds the urine.

Chronic kidney disease

A disease in which the kidney or kidneys gradually stop working over time. Many people suffer from chronic kidney disease. If it gets bad enough, a machine might be needed to filter the blood (dialysis) or the person might need a kidney transplant.

Colorectal cancer

Cancer that happens in the bottom part of the digestive system, in the colon or the rectum.

Endoscope

A tool used to look inside the body. Urologists use a certain type of endoscope, called a ureteroscope, to see where tumors are located. It also lets them see what they’re doing during endoscopic procedures.

Endoscopic management/endoscopic resection

Minor operations that a urologist does to remove UTUC tumors. These operations can be done using a laser, forceps, or another surgical tool. However, they are always done using an endoscope, which lets the urologist see inside the body during the operation.

Forceps

A tool used to remove tumors or tumor tissue during an endoscopic procedure. Ureteral forceps have tiny pinchers (similar to tweezers) at the end of a long, skinny tube.

Grade

The term used to describe how likely cancer cells are to grow and spread. Low-grade UTUC usually grows slowly and is less likely to spread than high-grade UTUC.

High grade

The term used to describe cancer cells that are more aggressive and are more likely to spread to other parts of the organ or other parts of the body.

High risk

The term used to describe cancer that is more dangerous. The risk of UTUC usually depends on grade, stage, tumor size and location, chances of recurrence, and the overall health of the person.

Kidney

The bean-shaped organ (about the size of a fist) that is in charge of filtering waste out of the blood and turning it into urine. The human body has 2 kidneys, located just under the rib cage and on both sides of the spine.

Low grade

The term used to describe cancer cells that are less aggressive and are less likely to spread to other parts of the organ or other parts of the body.

Low risk

The term used to describe cancer that is less dangerous. The risk of UTUC usually depends on grade, stage, tumor size and location, chances of recurrence, and the overall health of the person.

Lynch syndrome

A condition that is passed down through families and increases a person’s risk for several types of cancer.

Nephroureterectomy (NU)

The medical name for the surgery that is done to remove a kidney, ureter, and a small part of the bladder. This could also be called a radical nephroureterectomy, or RNU.

Radical nephroureterectomy (RNU)

The medical name for the surgery that is done to remove a kidney, ureter, and a small part of the bladder. This could also be called a nephroureterectomy, or NU.

Recurrence

When cancer that was removed or cured comes back or happens again.

Renal cell cancer/renal cell carcinoma (RCC)

A type of cancer that happens in the kidneys. Some people get this type of cancer confused with UTUC, so be sure to ask your urologist which one you have.

Risk

The term used to describe how dangerous the cancer is. The risk of UTUC usually depends on grade, stage, tumor size and location, and the overall health of the person.

Urologists usually think about UTUC as low risk or high risk. Low-risk UTUC is not considered as dangerous as high-risk UTUC.

Stage

This term is used to describe how deep the cancer has grown into the tissue of the organ. The stage of your cancer could be anywhere from 0 to 4. UTUC that is stage 0 is right on the surface of your urothelium. UTUC that is stage 4 has grown deep into your kidney or ureter and has also spread to another part of your body.

However, it can be hard to know what stage UTUC is. Your urologist might not always be able to tell.

Transitional cell carcinoma

Another name for UTUC or upper urinary tract cancer, usually used in older medical articles.

Tumor

A grouping of cells that does not grow the way normal cells do, causing a lump or bump. The actual lump of cancer cells is usually called a tumor.

Upper tract urothelial cancer/upper tract urothelial carcinoma (UTUC)

A cancer that happens in the lining of the upper part of the urinary tract, in the kidneys or ureters. Your urologist might call this type of cancer by other names, such as

  • Cancer of the upper urinary tract
  • Upper tract urothelial carcinoma
  • Kidney cancer
  • Renal pelvis cancer
  • Ureteral cancer
  • Urinary tract cancer
  • Upper tract cancer
  • Cancer in the lining of the kidney

Upper urinary tract

The top half of the urinary tract. This is the name used to refer to the kidneys and ureters.

Upper urinary tract cancer

Another name for UTUC.

Ureter

The tube-shaped part of the urinary tract that moves urine from the kidneys to the bladder. The human body has 2 ureters, each connecting a kidney to the bladder.

Ureteroscope

A tool used to look inside the body. A ureterscope is a type of endoscope, and urologists use it to see where tumors are located. It also lets them see what they’re doing during endoscopic procedures.

Urethra

The bottom part of the urinary tract. When you urinate, the urine leaves the body through the urethra.

Urinary tract

The name for the body parts that work together to collect, store, and remove urine from the body. Those body parts include the kidneys, the ureters, the bladder, the urethra, and many muscles and nerves.

Urologist

A doctor who specializes in treating conditions of the urinary tract.

Urothelial cancer/urothelial carcinoma

A cancer that happens in the urinary tract. It is called urothelial because it usually happens in the urothelium, which is the tissue that lines the inside of the urinary tract. Your urologist might simply call it urinary tract cancer.

Urothelium

The tissue that lines the inside of the urinary tract. Most urothelial cancer happens in the urothelium.