Kidney cancer is cancer that begins in the kidneys. Your kidneys are two bean-shaped organs, each about the size of your fist. They're located behind your abdominal organs, with one kidney on each side of your spine.
What are the types of kidney cancer?
There are several types of kidney cancer:
Renal cell carcinoma. Renal cell carcinomais the most common type of adult kidney cancer, making up about 85% of diagnoses. This type of cancer develops in the proximal renal tubules that make up the kidney's filtration system.
Urothelial carcinoma. This is also called transitional cell carcinoma. It accounts for 5% to 10% of the kidney cancers diagnosed in adults. Urothelial carcinoma begins in the kidney area where urine collects before moving to the bladder, called the renal pelvis.
Sarcoma. Sarcoma of the kidney is rare. This type of cancer develops in the kidney's soft tissue, the thin layer of connective tissue surrounding the kidney, called the capsule or surrounding fat.
Wilms tumor. Wilms tumor is most common in children and is treated differently from kidney cancer in adults. Wilms tumors make up about 1% of kidney cancers.
Lymphoma. Lymphoma can enlarge both kidneys and is associated with enlarged lymph nodes, called lymphadenopathy, in other parts of the body, including the neck, chest, and abdominal cavity.
What are the symptoms of kidney cancer?
Kidney cancer usually doesn't have signs or symptoms in its early stages. In time, signs and symptoms may develop, including:
Blood in your urine, which may appear pink, red, or cola-colored
Pain in your back or side that doesn't go away
Loss of appetite
Unexplained weight loss
What causes kidney cancer?
Doctors know that kidney cancer begins when some kidney cells develop changes (mutations) in their DNA. A cell's DNA contains the instructions that tell a cell what to do. The differences tell the cells to grow and divide rapidly. The accumulating abnormal cells form a tumor that can extend beyond the kidney. Some cells can break off and spread (metastasize) to distant parts of the body.
How is kidney cancer diagnosed?
Tests and procedures used to diagnose kidney cancer include:
Blood and urine tests. Tests of your blood and urine may give your doctor clues about what's causing your signs and symptoms.
Imaging tests. Imaging tests allow your doctor to visualize a kidney tumor or abnormality. Imaging tests might include ultrasound, X-ray, CT, or MRI.
Removing a sample of kidney tissue (biopsy). Your doctor may recommend a procedure to remove a small piece of cells (biopsy) from a suspicious area of your kidney in some situations. The sample is tested in a lab to look for signs of cancer. This procedure isn't always needed.
How is kidney cancer managed or treated?
Kidney cancer treatment usually begins with surgery to remove cancer. For cancers confined to the kidney, this may be the only treatment needed. If cancer has spread beyond the kidney, additional treatments may be recommended.Together, you and your treatment team can discuss your kidney cancer treatment options. The best approach for you may depend on several factors, including your general health, the kind of kidney cancer you have, whether cancer has spread, and your preferences for treatment.