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Urinary Tract Cancers

Kidney Cancer

Kidney Anatomy

Most individuals have two kidneys, which perform several functions. Kidneys produce urine, which is then sent through tubes, called the ureters, and collected in the bladder before being expelled from the body. Kidneys also regulate blood pressure, balance the fluids in your body, and manufacture a hormone that produces red blood cells. If one kidney stops functioning, the other can work alone.

This article will cover the following information:

Types of Kidney Cancer

There are several types of kidney cancers, but the most common by far is known as renal cell carcinoma, or RCC. Transitional cell cancer is a much less common form of the disease. Kidney cancer is relatively rare compared to other cancers, and, with prompt diagnosis and treatment, the survival rate is very high—between 79 percent and 100 percent. Less than 30,000 Americans per year receive the diagnosis, with individuals between the ages of 50 and 70 at the greatest risk. Cancer of this type attacks both men and women, but men are at an elevated risk.

Kidney cancer can be treated in a number of ways, depending on the stage of development and other factors. We'll explain each option, but let's first examine the leading risk factors.

Risk Factors

The list of risk factors for Kidney Cancer contains both controllable and uncontrollable factors. If you and your loved ones don't now have the disease, you can use this section to determine lifestyle changes you can make to reduce the risk. This is particularly important if you are more vulnerable on account of your age or other factors you have little or no control over.


Individuals in the early stages of kidney cancer might have no symptoms, in which case the condition is only detected during a general checkup or when testing for some other medical condition. When symptoms do occur, they're often the general sort that patients with any forms of cancer tend to experience:

If the cancer isn't detected until it has advanced to other areas of the body, symptoms vary depending on where the cancer has migrated.

Sumptoms particular to Kidney Cancer include:

Even when found, the presence of blood in the urine can be a symptom of a number of medical conditions, only some of which are serious. And all of the symptoms of kidney cancer that patients might express to their doctors can indicate any number of medical conditions, so doctors run one or more of several exams, procedures and lab tests to arrive at a diagnosis.


Doctors will usually start with an imaging test to search for tumors on the kidney. You might undergo testing by one or more of the following imaging devices:

Once kidney cancer is suspected, doctors will confirm the diagnosis through the following tests:

Treatment Options

The goal of your medical team is to control the tumor while it's still in the kidney and stop it from metastasizing, which means spreading into the liver, colon, pancreas, bones, lungs and elsewhere. The methods chosen for treating kidney cancer depend on a variety of factors, including the patient's age, overall state of health and the disease's location, size and stage of development. In general, here are the various options doctors consider for treating kidney cancer:


This is the conventional and most effective treatment for renal cell carcinoma.

Tumor ablation

This treatment option involves a range of less invasive techniques for destroying the tumor without surgically removing it. Ultrasound, microwave therapy, laser coagulation or other means are used to break down the tumor.


These drugs can be given orally or intravenously, but unfortunately only have limited benefit in patients with advanced disease.

Radiation therapy

Can be helpful in treating areas in which the tumor has spread, but not for treatment of the tumor when found within the kidney.

Cancers of the urological system have varying risk factors, symptoms, treatments and outcomes. Please use the following links for more information about Bladder Cancer, Prostate Cancer and Testicular Cancer.

For more information:

Go to the Urinary Tract Cancers health topic, where you can:

This article is a NetWellness exclusive.

Last Reviewed: Feb 06, 2006

Martin I Resnick, MD Martin I Resnick, MD
Formerly, Professor of Urology
School of Medicine
Case Western Reserve University