Urologic oncologist

This page was reviewed under our medical and editorial policy by

Maurie Markman, MD, President, Medicine & Science

This page was reviewed on September 27, 2022.

Approximately 8,200 urologic oncologists are in practice across the United States, providing specialized care to patients with cancer of the urinary tract and the male reproductive system. These providers treat the more than 300,000 people each year who are diagnosed with urologic cancer, as well as those being treated for existing urologic cancers.

What is a urologic oncologist?

Urologic oncologists are urologists who undergo additional training focused specifically on oncology (cancer prevention, diagnosis and treatment). These doctors specialize in treating cancer in the urinary tract and the male reproductive system, such as cancer in the:

Urologic oncologists know how these cancers start and spread, how to spot and diagnose them, and how to treat them. They’ll work with other doctors as part of a team.

As urology is technically a surgical specialty, urologic oncologists are particularly experienced in performing surgical procedures related to cancer. Some procedures that a urologic oncologist may perform include:

What kind of training does a urologic oncologist have?

Urologic oncologists have up to two years of additional training in this subspecialty on top of their prior medical and urology training. This means that a urologic oncologist must graduate from medical school and then spend five to six years in a residency program, learning skills related to the specialty of urology as a whole. After residency, a urologist may further subspecialize in urologic oncology through a fellowship. Urologic oncology fellowships take up to two years and provide a rigorous education in all things related to cancers that develop in the urinary tract and the male reproductive system.

What is a urologist?

A urologist is a type of doctor specializing in the urinary systems of both men and women and the male reproductive system.

The urinary system, or urinary tract, includes:

  • Kidneys
  • Ureters
  • Bladder
  • Urethra

The kidneys' job is to filter waste and balance fluid in the blood to create urine, which then travels through the ureters to the bladder, where it’s stored. When the bladder fills up, the urine exits the body through the urethra.

The male reproductive system consists of the prostate, scrotum, testes and penis, which work together to produce, store and transport semen.

Urologists are experts in diagnosing and treating problems related to these parts of the body.

What does a urologist do?

Urologists are the go-to doctors to handle a spectrum of potential problems in the urinary tract or the male reproductive system.

Some patients may regularly see a urologist to check on chronic issues such as an enlarged prostate, which is common in older men. Others may be referred to a urologist by another health professional because of symptoms or concerns that require the attention of a specialist.

Potential reasons to visit a urologist include:

  • Painful urination
  • Urinary tract infections (UTIs)
  • Incontinence (leakage of urine)
  • Frequent urge to urinate or an overactive bladder
  • Kidney stones
  • Disrupted flow of urine
  • Infertility
  • Genital problems
  • Prostatitis or an enlarged prostate
  • Cancer (in the kidneys, bladder, testicles, penis or prostate)
  • Low testosterone or other hormonal issues in men

Depending on the symptoms or condition, a urologist uses specialized tests to determine the cause and treat it using lifestyle changes, medicines, surgery or other procedures.

What kind of training does a urologist have?

A doctor pursuing a career in urology must first graduate from medical school and then complete a five- to six-year residency. Residency is when medical school graduates train under more experienced doctors in real medical settings. Urology is technically a surgical specialty, meaning that urologists are trained in surgical procedures. They must undergo at least two years of surgical training during their residency. Some urologists may then participate in a urology fellowship, where they may specialize in a particular area of the urological field, such as cancer (oncology), children's urology, male infertility, female urology, reconstructive urology or kidney stones. Finally, urologists must pass an exam if they wish to be board-certified by The American Board of Urology.

What’s the difference between a urologic oncologist and a urologist?

A urologic oncologist is also a urologist, but a urologist isn’t necessarily a urologic oncologist. This is because a urologic oncologist must go through all the training to become a urologist, along with an additional fellowship in oncology. Urologists without this additional experience have many years of training under their belt and are equipped to handle problems in the urinary tract and male reproductive system, but those with extra oncology training have more expertise in the cancer area.

What should I expect during a visit to the urologist?

As with other doctors, a visit to the urologist typically starts with questions about medical history and current symptoms. A physical exam is also common because it allows the urologist to feel around the bladder or other bothersome areas.

Depending on the reason for the visit, a urologist may recommend one or more of the following tests:

Imaging tests such as an ultrasound, computed tomography (CT) scan or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan may also be used by the urologist to see inside the organs and tissues of the urinary tract. These scans are generally painless. They use different methods to produce images of the inside of the body and find and help diagnose problems such as cancer, kidney stones, blood clots, prostate enlargement and more.

What to ask a urologic oncologist

A cancer diagnosis is often stressful and confusing, so it’s a good idea to ask your care team specific questions about treatment options and your overall prognosis. Here are some questions to consider asking a urologic oncologist:

  • What type or subtype of cancer do I have?
  • Has my cancer spread?
  • What stage is my cancer?
  • Are my kids likely to get this type of cancer?
  • Which treatment option do you think would be best for my specific situation?
  • Which treatment side effects are possible?
  • Will this affect my fertility?
  • How long will treatment last?
  • Will I be able to keep working and handling family responsibilities during treatment?
  • What are the survival statistics for this type of cancer?
  • What symptoms are normal with this condition and the treatment?
  • Should I eat anything specific or avoid any activities?
  • How will treatment affect my sex life?

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