What is Kidney Cancer?

Kidney cancer, also known as renal cell carcinoma (RCC), is cancer that forms in the kidneys. The kidneys are a pair of bean-shaped organs that are about the size of a small fist and sit on each side of the spine, above the waist. Their primary job is to clean the blood and produce urine to rid the body of waste. Kidney cancer is among the 10 most common cancers in both men and women; however, a person’s lifetime risk for being told they have the disease is about 1 in 63. When caught early, this cancer usually responds well to treatment.

Symptoms of Kidney Cancer

Early-stage kidney cancer oftentimes has no symptoms and may be found incidentally during a CT scan or ultrasound performed for another reason. The symptoms below may also be caused by other medical conditions, so it is important that you share with your doctor all information during your exam.

  • Blood in your urine (hematuria) – the most common sign
  • Mass or lump in your abdominal area
  • Pain in your side, flank or lower back that doesn’t go away
  • Swelling in your legs and ankles
  • Late symptoms include anemia (low blood count), persistent fatigue and rapid weight loss
  • Loss of appetite and weight loss for no known reason
  • Anemia and fatigue

Causes of Kidney Cancer

  • Smoking
  • Obesity
  • Chronic High Blood Pressure
  • Misusing certain pain medicine for a long time
  • Von Hippel-Lindau syndrome
  • Tuberous sclerosis
  • Family history of kidney cancer

Diagnosing Kidney Cancer

Unfortunately, there are no specific blood or urine tests to detect kidney cancer. As mentioned above, most of the time kidney cancer is diagnosed, it is found incidentally when trying to diagnose or address another medical condition. Urine and blood test are however a routine part of a urologist’s testing when trying to make an accurate diagnosis. These test can provide a clearer picture of a person’s overall health, and are important pieces of data for your urologist to know about you.

Treating Kidney Cancer

Your urologist will use the stage and grade of the cancer to determine the best treatment plan for you. Treatment of kidney cancer is determined by many factors such as, your age and overall health, your anatomy as well as the size and location of the tumor(s). The overall outlook of kidney cancer treatment depends on how aggressive the cancer cells are, and if the tumor has spread. Treatments for kidney cancer include: surgery, alternatives to surgery for localized disease, targeted therapy, Immunotherapy/biologic therapy, chemotherapy, radiation, and a clinical trial.