Kidney Cancers

What is kidney cancer?

Kidney cancer, also called renal cancer, is cancer of the bean-shaped organs that filter blood to rid the body of waste products. Kidney cancer is one of the most common cancers in both men and women.

What are the different types of kidney cancer?

The most common type of kidney cancer is called renal cell cancer (RCC). It accounts for approximately 90 percent of cases of kidney cancer. There are several subtypes of renal cell cancer, which are classified based on the microscopic appearance of the cancer cells. The most common types of renal cell cancers are:

Clear cell renal cell carcinoma

The the most common form, which accounts for approximately 70 percent of renal cell cancer, is clear cell renal cell carcinoma. When seen under a microscope, the cells that make up clear cell RCC look very pale or clear.

Papillary renal cell carcinoma

Papillary renal cell carcinoma is the second most common type of renal cell cancer. This type of cancers develops structures called papillae within the tumor.

Chromophobe renal cell carcinoma

Very few cases of renal cell cancer are classified as chromophobe renal cell carcinoma. The cells of these tumors look similar to the cells of clear cell renal cell carcinoma in color, but are much larger and differ in other ways.

Collecting duct renal cell carcinoma

Collecting duct renal cell carcinoma is a very rare form of renal cell cancer. These cancer cells form irregular tubes.

In rare cases, kidney cancer is labeled "unclassified" because it doesn't fit into any of the other groups or because more than one type of cell is present.

What are the symptoms of kidney cancer?

The symptoms of kidney cancer may vary depending on the type and stage of the tumor. Symptoms typically don't appear until the cancer has reached a later stage. The most common symptoms associated with kidney cancer include:

  • Presence of blood in the urine
  • Persistent back pain below the ribs
  • Unintentional weight loss
  • Chronic fatigue
  • Fever

If symptoms indicate a possible diagnosis of kidney cancer, your doctor will order diagnostic tests which may include urine or blood tests, imaging tests and/or a biopsy of the kidneys.

What are the causes and risk factors of kidney cancer?

The exact cause remains unknown at this time, however certain genetic and environmental risk factors may play a role in the development of kidney cancer. These risk factors include:

  • Age
  • Family history of kidney cancer
  • Personal or family history of Von Hippel-Lindau disease
  • Smoking
  • Obesity
  • Hypertension or high blood pressure
  • Long-term treatment for kidney failure

How is kidney cancer treated?

Treatment options for kidney cancer depend on the type of cancer, as well as the patient's medical history and overall health.

Surgery is often recommended as the initial treatment option for kidney cancer. Surgical treatment may include removal of the tumor or partial or complete removal of the kidney.

Other recommended treatment options often include radiation therapy and/or targeted drug therapy.