Kidney cancer is a disease in which cancer cells grow in the kidneys. The kidneys are 2 bean-shaped organs. They are located just above the waist, on each side of the spine. Their main function is to filter the blood and produce urine.
There are 2 main types of kidney cancer: Wilms tumor, which occurs mainly in children, and renal cell carcinoma in adults. The cells that line the ureter may also give rise to transitional cell cancer, and the connective tissues of the kidney may produce sarcomas, which are rare.
|Cancer Cell Growth|
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Cancer occurs when cells in the body divide without control or order. Normally, cells divide in a regulated manner. If cells keep dividing uncontrollably when new cells are not needed, a mass of tissue forms, called a growth or tumor. The term cancer refers to malignant growths. These growths can invade nearby tissues. Cancer that has invaded nearby tissues can then spread to other parts of the body.
It is not clear exactly what causes these problems in the cells, but it is probably a combination of genetics and environment.
Kidney cancer is more common in men, and in people over 50 years old. Other factors that may increase your chances of kidney cancer:
- Family history of certain hereditary forms of kidney cancer
- Certain occupational exposures, such as asbestos and aniline
- Tanning products
- Exposure to some toxins, such as astrolachia, which is an herb that is common in some Chinese herbal preparations
- Balkan nephritis
- Chronic kidney stones
- Phenacetin abuse
- Tuberous sclerosis
- Dialysis treatment
- Von Hippel Lindau syndrome
Kidney cancer may cause:
- Blood in the urine
- Lower back pain or new pain elsewhere
- Shortness of breath or a cough
- A lump in the abdomen
- Unplanned, significant weight loss
- Swelling of ankles, legs, and/or abdomen—edema
Your doctor will ask about your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done.
Your bodily fluids and tissues may be tested. This can be done with:
- Blood tests
- Urine tests
- Biopsy—a sample of kidney tissue is taken and evaluated under a microscope
Other tests evaluate the kidneys and other structures. These may include:
- Bone scan
- Chest x-rays
- IV pyelogram
- Renal angiography
- CT scan
- MRI scan
- Renal ultrasound
The physical exam combined with all of your test results, will help to determine the stage of cancer you have. Staging is used to guide your treatment plan. Like other cancers, kidney cancer is staged from I-IV. Stage I is a very localized cancer, while stage IV indicates a spread to other parts of the body.
Cancer treatment varies depending on the stage and type of cancer. Surgery is the most important component of any approach to cure kidney cancer. There is some information suggesting immunotherapies may be of some benefit. Radiation therapy can be used to treat kidney cancer that has spread to the lung, bones, or brain, but it is not a cure. Chemotherapy is not a very effective form of treatment.
Measures to prevent kidney cancer are limited. In general:
- Avoid using tobacco products
- Eat a healthful diet
- Try to avoid occupations that may expose you to harsh chemicals