Kidney cancer - also called renal cancer - is a disease in which kidney cells become malignant (cancerous) and grow out of control, forming a tumor. Almost all kidney cancers first appear in the lining of tiny tubes (tubules) in the kidney. This type of kidney cancer is called renal cell carcinoma. The good news is that most of kidney cancers are found before they spread (metastasize) to distant organs. And cancers caught early are easier to treat successfully. However, these tumors can grow to be quite large before they are detected.
The kidneys are two bean-shaped organs, each about the size of a fist. They lie in your lower abdomen on each side of your spine. Their main job is to clean your blood, removing waste products and making urine.
Doctors don't know the causes of kidney cancer. But certain factors appear to increase the risk of getting kidney cancer. For example, kidney cancer occurs most often in people older than age 40. These are some other risk factors for kidney cancer:
Having these risk factors does not mean you will get kidney cancer. And it's also true that you can have none of them and still get the disease.
In many cases, people may have no early symptoms of kidney cancer. As the tumor grows larger, symptoms may appear. You may have one or more of these kidney cancer symptoms:
Kidney cancer that spreads to other parts of your body may cause other symptoms, such as:
Once you have a diagnosis and know your stage of kidney cancer, you and your doctor can plan treatment. You may want to gather information to help you feel more informed about your decision. Your doctor may refer you to a specialist for treatment. This could include an urologist, a medical or radiation oncologist, or a surgeon. Before beginning treatment, many people find it helpful to get a second opinion about the diagnosis of kidney cancer and the treatment plan.
Kidney cancer is one of the more common cancers to undergo spontaneous remission. However, the incidence is quite low (approximately 0.5%).
There are several standard types of treatment for kidney cancer. In most cases, surgery is the first step. Even if surgery removes the entire tumor, though, your doctor may suggest an extra treatment to kill any remaining cancer cells that can't be seen.
These are the main types of surgery for kidney cancer. Which type you have depends on how advanced your cancer is.
You can survive with just a part of one kidney as long as it is still working. If the surgeon removes both kidneys or if both kidneys are not working, you will need a machine to clean your blood (dialysis) or a new kidney (kidney transplant). A transplant is possible if your cancer was found only in your kidney and a donated kidney is available.
If surgery can't remove your kidney cancer, your doctor may suggest another option to help destroy the tumor.