Kidney cancer is an abnormal growth of cells in the kidney that is cancerous (malignant). Unlike noncancerous (benign) tumors, malignant tumors can spread to other parts of your body. The kidneys are the organs that filter your blood and keep it clean, moving waste out of your blood and into your urine.
- Age. The likelihood of developing kidney cancer increases with age.
- Family history of kidney cancer.
- Being African American, Native American, or Native Alaskan.
- Being male.
- High blood pressure (hypertension).
- Advanced kidney disease, especially requiring long-term kidney dialysis.
- Inherited conditions, such as von Hippel-Lindau disease, tuberous sclerosis, and familial papillary renal cell carcinoma.
- Exposure to certain chemicals in the workplace.
Early kidney cancer often does not cause symptoms. As the cancer grows, symptoms may include:
- Blood in the urine.
- Abdominal pain or back pain.
- Unexplained weight loss.
Your health care provider may ask about your medical history and perform a physical exam. Other tests that may be done include:
- Blood and urine tests.
- Imaging tests, such as CT scans, MRI, and PET scans.
- Intravenous pyelogram.
- Examination of a tissue sample (biopsy) from your kidney.
- Staging tests will determine the cancer’s severity and extent.
The stages of kidney cancer are as follows:
- Stage I: The cancer is found only in the kidney. The tumor may be up to 2¾ inches (7 cm) wide.
- Stage II: The cancer is found only in the kidney. The tumor is wider than 2¾ inches (7 cm).
- Stage III: The cancer has spread to nearby tissues and possibly to the lymph nodes.
- Stage IV: The cancer has spread to the lymph nodes and other parts of the body, such as the bones, brain, liver, or lungs.
Depending on the type and stage of the cancer, treatment may include one or more of the following:
- Only removing the tumor (nephron-sparing surgery).
- Removing the entire kidney (nephrectomy).
- Removing the kidney, some of the surrounding healthy tissue and nearby lymph nodes, as well as the adrenal gland in certain cases (radical nephrectomy).
- This uses high-energy rays to kill cancer cells.
- This uses a needle that delivers gas into the cancer cells to freeze them.
- This uses a needle to deliver high-energy radio waves that heat and burn the cancer cells.
- This uses a tiny tube that is inserted through a groin artery and threaded up toward the kidney tumor. A substance is injected into the tube to block blood flow to the tumor, which causes it to die.
- Drugs may be used to help your body fight the cancer or to stop cancer cells from growing. This may include chemotherapy, biological therapy, and immunological therapy.
Follow these instructions at home:
- Take medicines, supplements, and herbal remedies only as directed by your health care provider.
- Maintain a healthy diet.
- Consider joining a support group, which may help you learn to cope with the stress of having kidney cancer.
- Seek advice to help you manage side effects of treatment.
- Keep all follow-up appointments as directed by your health care provider.
Contact a health care provider if:
- You notice that you bruise or bleed easily.
- You notice that you are losing weight without trying.
- You have new or increased fatigue or weakness.
Get help right away if:
- You have blood in your urine.
- You have a sudden increase in pain.
- You have a fever.
- You are short of breath.
- You have chest pain.
- Your skin or your eyes are yellow.
This information is not intended to replace advice given to you by your health care provider.