Kidney Cancer

Cancerous tumours that either originate in the kidney or have spread from a cancer elsewhere in the body

  • Age, gender, genetics, and lifestyle as risk factors depend on the cause

In most cases of kidney cancer, a tumour develops within the kidney tissue itself. Rarely, cancer may spread to the kidney from other organs in the body.

There are three main types of kidney cancer. The most common type, adenocarcinoma, develops from the cells that make up the main body of the kidneys. A second, rare form, known as transitional cell carcinoma, develops from the cells that line the urine-collecting system within the kidney, bladder, and ureters (the tubes that carry urine from the kidneys to the bladder). This form is more common in people who smoke, because tobacco contains carcinogens (cancer-inducing substances), and in people who have been exposed to other carcinogens, such as chemical dyes, even many years previously. A third type, called Wilms’ tumour, is usually either present at birth or develops during the first 5 years of life.

Kidney cancer

This CT scan through the abdomen shows a large kidney tumour that has grown to replace most of the normal kidney tissue.

What are the symptoms?

There are often no symptoms in the early stages of kidney cancer. If symptoms do develop, they may include:

  • Painful, frequent passing of urine.

  • Blood in the urine.

  • Pain in the back or sides.

  • Weight loss.

If you notice blood in your urine (indicated by a red, pink, or smoky colour), consult your doctor immediately.

What might be done?

If your doctor suspects kidney cancer, he or she may image the kidneys using ultrasound scanning, CT scanning, or intravenous urography. The affected kidney will usually be surgically removed. (The other kidney can usually compensate.) If the cancer has spread, you may need chemotherapy. A form of the hormone progesterone (see Sex hormones and related drugs) and cancer treatments such as interferon alfa (see Anticancer drugs) have been helpful in some cases.

About 7 in 10 people who have a kidney tumour removed survive for more than 5 years, even if the tumour was large. If the cancer has spread to other organs before it is diagnosed, the length of survival decreases. However, treatments such as chemotherapy may slow the spread of cancer.

From the 2010 revision of the Complete Home Medical Guide © Dorling Kindersley Limited.

The subjects, conditions and treatments covered in this encyclopaedia are for information only and may not be covered by your insurance product should you make a claim.

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