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Transitional Cell Carcinoma: Symptoms And Treatment

Medically reviewed by Regina Victoria Boyles, MD · Pediatrics

Written by Lorraine Bunag, R.N. · Updated Apr 23, 2023

Transitional Cell Carcinoma: Symptoms And Treatment

A transitional cell is a type of cell that can change its shape and stretch without breaking apart. Transitional cells usually line hollow organs, such as the urinary bladder. They also line the kidneys, ureters, and ovaries. The thing is, cancer can start with transitional cells, thereby affecting the organs they line. Here’s what you need to know about transitional cell carcinoma symptoms and treatment.

Transitional Cell Carcinoma, An Overview

When someone is diagnosed with transitional cell carcinoma, the doctor usually indicates which organ is affected. A person may have transitional carcinoma of the:

  • Urinary Bladder
  • Kidneys 
  • Ureter (the tube connecting the bladder from the kidneys)
  • Ovaries 

As with many cancers, a transitional cell carcinoma may not present with symptoms. When it does, the symptoms depend on the organ affected. 

Types of Transitional Cell Carcinoma

Here is the overview of the types of transitional cell carcinoma:

TCC of the Ovaries

TCC of the ovaries is a newly recognized subtype of ovarian epithelial cancer. Presenting signs and symptoms may include abdominal pain, abdominal swelling, distension, and weight loss. At times, it may also lead to uterine bleeding, urinary and bowel symptoms, and back pain. 

Transitional carcinoma of the ovaries has a modest response to chemotherapy. 

TCC of the Kidneys

Also called renal transitional cell carcinoma, TCC of the kidneys does not produce symptoms early in the disease progression. Late in the disease, the person may experience persistent back pain, extreme fatigue, unexplained weight loss, bloody urination, and recurrent, painful urination. 

The most common treatment for TCC of the kidneys is surgery to remove the affected kidney, ureter, and bladder cuff. 

TCC of the Ureters

The transitional cell carcinoma of the ureters accounts for 1 out of every 25 cases of upper urinary tract tumors. Reports say that it is curable in 90% of patients so long as the cancer is confined to the pelvis or ureters. 

TCC of the Bladder

Transitional carcinoma of the urinary bladder, also called urothelial carcinoma, is the most common type of bladder cancer. However, its symptoms are indistinguishable from the symptoms of the other types of bladder cancer. Signs and symptoms include blood in the urine (hematuria), frequent urination, painful urination, and sometimes, even back pain. 

Note that a person may have TCC in two or more organs at the same time, considering these structures are close to one another. 

Transitional Cell Carcinoma Treatment

The standard treatment involves a surgery called nephroureterectomy. This operation removes the entire kidney, the ureters, and the bladder cuff (tissues connecting the bladder to the ureters). 

If only a part of the ureter is affected, the doctor may recommend the segmental resection of the ureter, which removes only the part of the ureter that has cancer and some healthy parts surrounding the affected area. The surgeon then reattaches the ends of the ureters. 

Surgery is also the primary treatment for TCC of the ovaries. 

However, for cancers that have spread to other areas, the doctor may recommend chemotherapy. Regional biologic therapy, which uses the body’s immune system to fight off cancer, may also be recommended. In this treatment, the doctors use a biologic substance directly over the affected area to help boost the body’s natural ability to destroy cancer cells. 

Key Takeaways

Transitional cells are cells that can stretch and change their shapes without breaking apart. They line organs, like the ovaries, urinary bladder, and kidneys, as well as the ureters. When cancer starts in these cells, it affects the organ or structure they line.

The primary treatment method for transitional cell carcinoma is surgery to remove the part or entirety of the structures involved. If cancer has metastasized or spread to other areas, the doctor may also recommend chemotherapy or regional biologic therapy.

Learn more about Cancer here


Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

Medically reviewed by

Regina Victoria Boyles, MD


Written by Lorraine Bunag, R.N. · Updated Apr 23, 2023

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