Kidney Cancer


Kidney cancer is a serious disease that affects nearly 65,000 people each year. Most of those affected are men over the age of 45, but women, young adults and children are sometimes affected as well. The two most common types of kidney cancer are renal cell carcinoma and renal pelvis carcinoma. They are so named for the cells in which they originate. Renal cell carcinoma makes up about 80 percent of all kidney cancer cases.

Doctors do not know what mechanism causes kidney cancer, but there are several risk factors associated with developing this cancer. Kidney cancer may have a primary or secondary origin. Primary kidney cancer originates in the kidney. Secondary kidney cancer has a primary origin elsewhere but has spread to the kidney through metastasis. Most cases of kidney cancer do not respond well to traditional treatments such as chemotherapy and radiotherapy, but other treatment options are available. The medical community continues to explore new ways to treat this disease.

Symptoms and Diagnosis

Detecting kidney cancer in the early stages is a challenge because symptoms are often not noticeable until advanced disease is present. Common symptoms of kidney cancer include a mass in the abdomen, blood in the urine, fatigue, loss of appetite and weight, an unexplained fever, sweating and abdominal pain.

A complete medical history and physical exam is often the first step in diagnosing kidney cancer. Palpitation of the abdomen is routinely performed to feel for masses on the kidney. Lab tests, such as complete blood counts and blood chemistry tests detect conditions such as anemia or high levels of liver enzyme or calcium in the blood. Each of these is an indicator that points to possible kidney cancer. A urinalysis checks the urine for blood – or in some cases – cancer cells. Imaging tests such as x-rays, CT scans, ultrasounds and MRI scans detect masses within the body and pinpoint their location and size.


While doctors do not know exactly what causes kidney cancer, some risk factors make the disease more likely. Smoking, a family history of kidney cancer and kidney disease – such as Hepatitis C – that requires dialysis are all strongly associated the disease. In addition, obesity and a medical history that includes treatment for ovarian or testicular cancer increases risk.  Continue for Prevention information . . .

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