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About Kidney Cancer

Kidney (renal cell) cancer is a disease in which cancerous cells form in the lining of the tubules in the kidney.

Signs & Symptoms

These are signs of kidney (renal cell) cancer:

  • Blood in the urine
  • A lump in the abdomen
  • A pain in the side that doesn't go away
  • Weight loss for no known reason
  • Anemia
  • Loss of appetite

Many other health problems can also cause these signs. If you have any of these signs, see your doctor as soon as possible.

Learn more about kidney cancer from the National Cancer Institute.

Image of the Urinary System

The male urinary system (left panel) and female urinary system (right panel) showing the kidneys, ureters, bladder, and urethra.
The male urinary system (left panel) and female urinary system (right panel) showing the kidneys, ureters, bladder, and urethra. Urine is made in the renal tubules and collects in the renal pelvis of each kidney. The urine flows from the kidneys through the ureters to the bladder. The urine is stored in the bladder until it leaves the body through the urethra.

Specialties & Treatments

The treatment or combination of treatments each patient has depends on the stage of the cancer, recommendations of the care team, and the patient’s wishes. These are the most common types of treatment:

  • Surgery
  • Radiation therapy
  • Chemotherapy
  • Targeted therapy
  • Biologic therapy

Huntsman Cancer Institute’s Urology Program provides comprehensive, compassionate, state-of-the-art care for people with kidney cancer. Our experts treat and diagnose all types of urologic cancers and conditions.

Learn more about types of cancer treatments.

Find a Kidney Cancer Doctor

Causes & Risk Factors

Anything that increases your chance of getting a disease is called a risk factor. Having a risk factor does not mean you are sure to get cancer. It means your chances are higher than the average person’s. Talk with your doctor to learn more about your cancer risk.

These are risk factors for kidney cancer:

Learn more about ways to prevent cancer and about cancer screenings.

Diagnosis & Stages

Diagnosis of Kidney Cancer

Doctors use these tests to diagnose kidney cancer:

  • MRI (magnetic resonance imaging): This test uses a powerful magnetic field, radio waves, and a computer to produce detailed pictures of the inside of your body.
  • Ultrasound: This procedure uses high-energy sound waves to create a picture of the internal organs.
  • Physical exam and history: A health care provider examines your body for signs of disease. Your personal health habits, past illnesses, and symptoms help guide the exam.
  • Laboratory tests: By testing body tissues, blood, urine, or other substances in the body, your health care team can check to see how the kidneys and other organs are functioning. They can also look for substances that cells produce when cancer is present.
  • Imaging tests: Using dyes, x-rays, magnets, radio waves and/or computer technology, your health care provider can create detailed images of internal organs. Your health care provider may inject or have you swallow a dye to help see the images.
  • Biopsy: The health care provider removes cell or tissue samples so they can be viewed under a microscope to check for signs of cancer.

Stages of Kidney Cancer

Cancer stages show whether cancer has spread within or around the kidney or to other parts of the body. Cancer spreads in the body in three ways: through tissue, the lymph system, or the blood.

These are the stages used for kidney cancer:

  • Stage 1: Tumor is less than 7 centimeters, in the kidney only
  • Stage 2: Tumor is larger than 7 centimeters, in the kidney only
  • Stage 3: Tumor is any size and has spread to one or more lymph nodes, or to the main blood vessels or fatty tissue around the kidney.
  • Stage 4: Cancer has spread beyond the fatty tissue of the kidney or to other organs in the body.

When cancer spreads from where it started to another part of the body, it is called metastasis. These metastatic cancer cells are the same type of cancer as the primary tumor. For example, if kidney cancer spreads to the bone, the cancer cells in the bone are actually kidney cancer cells. The disease is metastatic kidney cancer, not bone cancer.

Learn more about the stages of kidney cancer from the National Cancer Institute.

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