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13-12-2016 | Genitourinary cancers | Article

Diagnostic dilemmas in patients with upper tract urothelial carcinoma

Joyce Baard, Daniel M. de Bruin, Patricia J. Zondervan, Guido Kamphuis, Jean de la Rosette, M. Pilar Laguna


Upper tract urothelial carcinoma (UTUC) is a rare condition and recommendations based on a high level of evidence for diagnosis, treatment and follow-up monitoring are lacking. Current decision-making is often based on evidence from trials investigating urothelial carcinoma of the lower tract. Radical nephroureterectomy has been the standard of care for UTUC but kidney-sparing treatment using endoscopic approaches has been established for a select patient group with low-grade and low-stage disease. Optimal treatment choice requires correct tumour characterization. According to available recommendations, diagnostic work-up of UTUC includes evaluation by CT urography or MRI urography, cystoscopy and urine cytology. Ureterorenoscopy and lesion biopsy are grade C recommendations in patients with suspected UTUC. When kidney-sparing treatment is planned, ureterorenoscopy and biopsy should be considered and are the procedures of choice in most cases. These diagnostics have limitations and their accuracy varies in defining tumour characteristics and predicting grade and stage. Urinary tests have higher sensitivity than cytology for detection of lower tract urothelial carcinoma but evidence of their benefit in UTUCs is lacking. New optical and image enhancement techniques are being developed to facilitate real-time diagnostics with increased accuracy. A new diagnostic algorithm for patients with suspected UTUC that integrates the diagnosis, treatment and clinical risk stratification is required.

​​​​​​​Nat Rev Urol 2017; 14: 181–191. doi:10.1038/nrurol.2016.252


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