Kidney cancer – also called renal cancer – is a common cancer found when cells in the kidney become cancerous and form a tumor. The cause of kidney cancer is still unknown, however, the good news is, most kidney cancers are detected early before they spread to other organs, making this type of cancer very treatable.
If you’ve been diagnosed with kidney cancer, our collaborative, expert team is here to lead you through diagnosis and treatment. Our nurse navigators are here to come alongside you or your loved one and guide you every step of the way. We also offer support and spiritual services to help you connect with others and cope as you receive care and treatment.
An increased risk is related to how much you smoke. The risk for kidney cancer drops if you stop smoking, but it takes many years of not smoking to get to the risk level of someone who has never smoked.
- High blood pressure
- Family history of kidney cancer
Your risk for kidney cancer is at its highest if you have a brother or sister with kidney cancer.
- Workplace exposure
Many studies have suggested that workplace exposure to certain substances, such as trichloroethylene, increases the risk for kidney cancer.
Kidney cancer is about twice as common in men as in women.
African Americans have a slightly higher rate of RCC than whites.
- Genetic and inherited risk factors
- Computed tomography (CT) scan provides precise information about the size, shape and location of a tumor. It is also useful in checking to see if a cancer has spread to nearby lymph nodes or to organs and tissues outside the kidney.
- Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan is used when a person can’t have contrast for a CT scan or has poor kidney function. MRI scans may also be done if there’s a chance that the cancer has grown into major blood vessels in the abdomen (like the inferior vena cava), because they provide a better picture of blood vessels than CT scans.
- Ultrasound can help find a kidney mass and show if it is solid or filled with fluid (kidney tumors are more likely to be solid). Different ultrasound patterns can also help doctors tell the difference between some types of benign and malignant kidney tumors. If a kidney biopsy is needed, this test can also be used to guide a biopsy needle into the mass to take a sample.
- Kidney biopsy might be done to get a small sample of tissue from an area that may be cancer when the imaging tests are not clear enough to require surgery. Unlike with most other types of cancer, a biopsy may not be needed to diagnose kidney tumors. In certain cases, imaging tests can provide enough information for a surgeon to decide if an operation is needed. The diagnosis is then confirmed when part of the kidney that was removed is looked at in the lab.
Treatments & Therapies
- Surgery is the main treatment for most kidney cancers and can often cure kidney cancer by itself. Depending on the stage and location of the cancer and other factors, surgery might be done to remove the entire kidney including the tumor (known as a radical nephrectomy) or the cancer alone along with some of the surrounding kidney tissue (known as a partial nephrectomy). Sometimes, the adrenal gland (the small organ that sits on top of each kidney) and fatty tissue around the kidney is removed as well. In certain cases, the nearby lymph nodes might also be removed. The nephrectomy is often done robotically-assisted through several small incisions instead of one large one.
For people who are too sick to have surgery or don't want to have surgery, other treatments are available. These approaches are usually considered for small (no larger than 4 centimeters or 1.5 inch) kidney cancers.
- Cryotherapy (cryoablation) uses extreme cold to destroy the tumor
- Radiofrequency ablation uses high-energy radio waves to heat the tumor
- Radiation Therapy
- Targeted Therapy