Kidney (Renal) Cancer

What is Kidney Cancer?

The kidneys are two organs located just above the waist on either side of the spine. They are part of the urinary system and their main function is to filter blood and produce urine to rid the body of waste. The kidneys also produce substances that help control blood pressure and regulate the formation of red blood cells.

Several types of cancer can develop in the kidney, but the most common form of kidney cancer in adults is renal cell cancer (also called renal cell adenocarcinoma). This cancer develops in the tissues that filter blood and produce urine, and occurs when these cells become abnormal and divide without control or order.

Transitional cell cancer develops in the renal pelvis, which is in the center of the kidney and is where urine is stored until it drains into the bladder. Transitional cell cancer is similar to bladder cancer, and is often treated the same way.

Risk Factors of Kidney Cancer

While it is not known exactly what causes kidney cancer, researchers study patterns of cancer in the population to look for factors that are more common among people who develop cancer and those who do not. Following are some of the risk factors for kidney cancer:

  • Age. Risk increases with age, and most cases occur in people age 50-70.
  • Being a man. Almost twice as many men develop kidney cancer than do women.
  • Race. Somewhat more common among African American men than in white men.
  • Tobacco use. Smokers are twice as likely to develop kidney cancer than nonsmokers. Risk increases the longer a person smokes.
  • Obesity. Obesity has been associated with a higher risk of kidney cancer among women. Reasons for possible link are unclear at this time.
  • Radiation. Women who have been treated with radiation therapy for disorders of the uterus have a slightly elevated risk of developing kidney cancer.
  • Dialysis. Patients on long-term use of dialysis to treat chronic kidney failure also experience an elevated risk.
  • Von Hippel-Landau Disease (VHL). Genetic disorder seems to predispose some people to developing kidney, as well as other types of, cancer.

Common Symptoms of Kidney Cancer

  • Blood in the urine
  • A lump or mass in the kidney area
  • Fatigue
  • Loss of appetite
  • Weight loss
  • Recurrent fevers
  • A pain in the side that doesn’t go away
  • A general feeling of poor health

These symptoms may be caused by cancer or by other, less serious problems, such as an infection or a cyst. If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, see your doctor or a urologist.

Diagnosing Kidney Cancer

To help find the cause of your symptoms, your doctor will evaluate your medical history, will perform a physical exam and may prescribe various tests. Tests may include:

Treatment Options for Kidney Cancer

Treatment for kidney cancer depends on the stage of the disease, the patient’s general health and age, and other factors. Your doctor will work with you to develop a treatment plan that meets your needs.

Information about…Our services
SurgerySurgical Oncology
Radiation TherapyRadiation Oncology
ChemotherapyHematology Oncology 
Hormone Therapy

Additional Resources

Find out about our clinical trials for:

Kidney Cancer

National cancer clinical trials

Our Oncologists

Deepak Sahasrabudhe, M.D.

Manish Kohli, M.D.


Jean V. Joseph, M.D.

Edward M. Messing, M.D.

Jeanne O’Brien, M.D.

Ganesh S. Palapattu, M.D.

Radiation Oncologists

Joy Anderson, M.D.

Ralph Brasacchio, M.D.

Alan Katz, M.D.

Muammer Tasbas, M.D.


John Strang, M.D.

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