Munson Health
 
Kidney Cancer

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by Alan R

(Renal Cell Carcinoma)

 

Definition

Kidney cancer is a disease in which cancer cells grow in the kidneys. The kidneys are two 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 two 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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Diagnosis

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:
Other tests evaluate the kidneys and other structures. These may include:
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, breast 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.
 

Treatment

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.

Surgery

Surgery involves the removal of a cancerous tumor, nearby tissue, and possibly nearby lymph nodes. Surgeries to treat kidney cancer include:
  • Radical nephrectomy—removal of the entire kidney, adrenal gland, and nearby fatty tissue and lymph nodes
  • Partial nephrectomy—removal of the cancerous part of the kidney only to treat smaller tumors that have not spread locally
  • Removal of metastases—removal of cancerous tissue that has spread to other parts of the body, particularly when causing symptoms

Radiation Therapy

This is the use of radiation to kill cancer cells and shrink tumors. External radiation therapy is directed at the tumor from a source outside the body.

Chemotherapy

Chemotherapy is the use of drugs to kill cancer cells. Chemotherapy may be given in many forms including pill, injection, and through a tube called a catheter. The drugs enter the bloodstream and travel through the body destroying mostly cancer cells but also some healthy cells.

Immunotherapy

This procedure involves the use of drugs like interleukin-2 and interferon alpha to help the immune system fight and destroy cancer cells.

Targeted Therapy

Targeted therapy includes using medications called tyrosine kinase inhibitors. These medications have been shown to increase the survival rate in people with kidney cancer. Another class of drugs called mammalian target of rapamycin (mTOR) inhibitors may also help people with kidney cancer live longer.

Medication

These medications may be prescribed to adults with advanced kidney cancer:
  • Everolimus
  • Pazopanib
 

RESOURCES

American Cancer Society
http://www.cancer.org

Kidney Cancer Association
http://www.kidneycancer.org

 

CANADIAN RESOURCES

Canadian Cancer Society
http://www.cancer.ca

The Kidney Foundation of Canada
http://www.kidney.ca

 

References


About kidney cancer. Kidney Cancer Association website. Available at: http://www.kidneycancer.org/knowledge/learn/about-kidney-cancer. Updated January 29, 2013. Accessed August 13, 2014.


Kidney cancer (adult)—renal cell carcinoma. American Cancer Society website. Available at: http://www.cancer.org/acs/groups/cid/documents/webcontent/003107-pdf.pdf. Accessed August 13, 2014.


Kidney cancer. National Cancer Institute website. Available at: http://www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/types/kidney. Accessed August 13, 2014.


Renal cell carcinoma. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed. Updated July 2, 2014. Accessed August 13, 2014.

 

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