Renal cell cancer

Also known as: Kidney cancer, Renal adenocarcinoma, Metastatic kidney cancer, Metastatic renal cell cancer, Renal cell cancer, metastatic, Kidney cancer, metastatic, Cancer, renal cell, Cancer, kidney

There are many different types of kidney cancer, but the most common is called renal cell cancer, or RCC. Renal cell cancer is a disease in which malignant (cancer) cells start in the very tiny tubes (tubules) of the kidney.

What causes renal cell cancer?
Anything that increases your risk of getting a disease is called a risk factor. Having a risk factor does not mean that you will get cancer; not having risk factors doesn't mean that you won't get cancer. People who think they may be at risk should discuss this with their doctor.

Risk factors for renal cell cancer include the following:

  • Smoking.
  • Misusing certain pain medicines, including over-the-counter pain medicines, for a long time.
  • Having certain genetic conditions, such as von Hippel-Lindau disease or hereditary papillary renal cell carcinoma.

What are the symptoms?
There may be no symptoms in the early stages of kidney cancer. Symptoms may appear as the tumor grows and are often similar to other illnesses. You should check with your doctor if you have any of the following:

  • A pain in the side that doesn't go away.
  • Loss of appetite.
  • Weight loss for no known reason.
  • Anemia or constantly feeling very tired.
  • Blood in the urine.
  • A lump in the abdomen.

How is renal cell cancer treated?
After renal cell cancer has been diagnosed, tests are done to find out if cancer cells have spread within the kidney or to other parts of the body. This process is called staging. It is important to know the stage in order to plan treatment.

There are different types of treatment for patients with renal cell cancer

Surgery to remove part or the entire kidney is often used to treat renal cell cancer. Kidney surgery is usually performed by a urologist. The following types of surgery may be used: 

Nephron sparing surgery: Nephron sparing surgery is also known as a partial nephrectomy. It is a surgical procedure to remove the cancer within the kidney and some of the tissue around it. It may be done to prevent loss of kidney function when the other kidney is damaged or has already been removed.
Simple nephrectomy: A surgical procedure to remove the kidney only.
Radical nephrectomy: A surgical procedure to remove the kidney, the adrenal gland, surrounding tissue, and, usually, nearby lymph nodes.

When surgery to remove the cancer is not possible, a treatment called arterial embolization may be used to shrink the tumor.

Adjuvant Therapy
Even if the doctor removes all the cancer that can be seen at the time of the surgery, some patients may be given chemotherapy or radiation therapy after surgery to kill any cancer cells that are left. Treatment given after the surgery, to lower the risk that the cancer will come back, is called adjuvant therapy and usually includes:

  • Radiation therapy  uses high-energy x-rays or other types of radiation to kill cancer cells or keep them from growing.
  • Chemotherapy uses drugs to stop the growth of cancer cells, either by killing the cells or by stopping them from dividing.
  • Biologic therapy uses the patient's immune system to fight cancer.
  • Targeted therapy uses drugs or other substances to identify and attack specific cancer cells without harming normal cells.
  • Kinase inhibitors uses inhibitors to prevent cells from dividing and may prevent the growth of new blood vessels that tumors need to grow.
For more information:
Read about Providence Urology Services or find a urologist near you.

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