What is a Urologist and What Do They Do?

Treating Diseases of the Urinary Tract and Male Reproductive Organs

Doctor explaining urological problems
Doctor explaining urological problems. Getty/E+/Jan-Otto

What is a urologist? A urologist is a physician who has had specialty training to diagnose and treat diseases of the male and female urinary tracts, as well as of the male reproductive organs.

Urologists complete four years of medical school, then at least four to five years of residency training before working independently.

Urologists treat many types of diseases including prostate cancer. They commonly perform surgery on prostate cancer patients (including radical prostatectomy).

The Scope of Urology

Although urology is classified as a surgical specialty, a knowledge of internal medicine, pediatrics, gynecology, and other specialties is required by the urologist because of the wide variety of clinical problems encountered. In recognition of the wide scope of urology, the American Urological Association has identified seven subspecialty areas:

  1. Pediatric Urology
  2. Urologic Oncology (cancer)
  3. Renal Transplantation
  4. Male Infertility
  5. Calculi (urinary tract stones)
  6. Female Urology (urinary incontinence and pelvic outlet relaxation disorders)
  7. Neurourology (voiding disorders, urodynamic evaluation of patients and erectile dysfunction or impotence).

Prostate Cancer

The treatment of malignant disease is a very large portion of urologic practice. Newer diagnostic methods for the detection of prostate cancer have recently emerged and currently the diagnosis and treatment of prostate cancer occupies much of many urologists' time.


Prostate cancer develops in the prostate — a small gland that makes seminal fluid. It is one of the most common types of cancer in men. Prostate cancer usually grows over time and in the beginning usually stays within the prostate gland, where it may not cause serious harm. While some types of prostate cancer grow slowly and may need minimal or no treatment, other types are aggressive and can spread quickly.

Prostate cancer that is caught early has a better chance of successful treatment.

The Changing Face of Urology

The specialty of urology is constantly changing. Much of this change has been the result of improved technology. Refinements in the area of endoscopic surgery have already revolutionized the treatment of urinary tract stones. Skill and experience using the surgical microscope will undoubtedly be an important part of urologic practice in the future.

Much recent research effort has evolved in the area of laparoscopic surgery. Many urologic operations which have been done by open surgery in the past can now be performed through the laparoscope. This is also known as minimally invasive surgery. The development of new cancer chemotherapy drugs has significantly altered treatment for some urologic cancers. In summary, urology is a rapidly changing and exciting area of medicine which requires practicing urologists to be actively involved in continuing education.


American Urological Association. What is Urology? https://www.auanet.org/about/what-is-urology.cfm

Mayo Clinic. Prostate Cancer. http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/prostate-cancer/basics/definition/con-20029597

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