Kidney/Renal Cancer

Kidney cancer, also called renal cancer, starts in the kidneys — two bean-shaped organs about the size of a fist. Your kidneys are located above your waist on either side of your backbone. Inside your kidneys are tiny tubes that filter and clean your blood by removing waste and producing urine.

There are several types of kidney cancer, including:

  • Renal cell carcinoma — The most commonly diagnosed type of kidney cancer in adults. It starts in the area of your kidney that filters blood.

  • Renal pelvis carcinoma — Starts in the portion of your kidney in which urine is collected. Although this is commonly called kidney cancer, it is more like bladder cancer.

Risks Factors for Kidney/Renal Cancer

Your risk of developing kidney cancer increases with age. Other risk factors include:

  • Certain inherited syndromes including von Hippel-Lindau disease, Birt-Hogg-Dube syndrome and tuberous sclerosis complex.
  • Family history of kidney cancer.
  • High blood pressure.
  • Obesity.
  • Smoking.
  • Treatment for kidney failure.
Young man with pain talks to doctor for treatment.

Make an appointment

For more information, please contact your oncologist or the Cancer Care Center at (859) 301-4000.

Symptoms of Kidney/Renal Cancer

Kidney cancer may not cause any recognizable symptoms in its early stages. As the disease progresses, symptoms may include:

  • A lump in your abdomen.
  • Blood in your urine.
  • Excessive fatigue.
  • Loss of appetite.
  • Persistent back or side pain.
  • Recurring fevers.
  • Unexplained weight loss.

Diagnosis of Kidney/Renal Cancer

Diagnosing kidney cancer usually begins with a physical examination and review of your personal and family medical history.

Diagnostic testing may include:

  • Blood tests and urinalysis.
  • Imaging tests including X-rays, CT or MRI scans and ultrasound.
  • Kidney tissue biopsy.

Treating Kidney/Renal Cancer

Treatment for kidney cancer often begins with surgery. The goal is to remove all the cancer cells while retaining normal kidney function. There are two types of surgery that may be used, depending on your general health and the specifics of your cancer:

  • Nephrectomy — Involves removing your entire kidney and a border of healthy tissue. Nearby tissues such as your adrenal gland or lymph nodes may also be removed.
  • Partial nephrectomy — Involves removing the cancer cells and a small margin of healthy tissue. It does not require removing your whole kidney.

Nonsurgical treatments include:

  • Cryoablation — Treatment that uses extreme cold to freeze and destroy cancer cells.

  • Immunotherapy — Medication therapy that stimulates your own immune system to recognize and destroy cancer cells.

  • Radiofrequency ablation — Treatment that uses heat to destroy cancer cells.

  • Targeted therapy — Drugs that target specific molecules within cancer cells that help them grow and survive. Your cancer may be tested to see if targeted therapy is an option.

Your Cancer Care Team

Cancer Research Physicians

The team includes medical oncologists specializing in immunotherapy and precision medicine, surgical oncologists, radiation oncologists, interventional radiologists, thoracic surgeons, pain management specialists, genetic counselors, pathologists, nutritionists, pharmacists, nurses and support staff. They work together to create a treatment plan that’s just right for you.