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Alternative Names Return to topRenal cancer; Kidney cancer; Hypernephroma; Adenocarcinoma of renal cells; Cancer - kidney
Definition Return to top
Renal cell carcinoma is a type of kidney cancer in which the cancerous cells are found in the lining of very small tubes (tubules) in the kidney.
Causes Return to top
Renal cell carcinoma is the most common type of kidney cancer in adults. It occurs most often in men ages 50-70.
The exact cause is unknown.
Risk factors include:
Symptoms Return to top
Other symptoms that can occur with this disease:
Sometimes both kidneys are involved. The cancer spreads easily, most often to the lungs and other organs. In about one-third of patients, the cancer has already spread (metastasized) at the time of diagnosis.
Exams and Tests Return to top
Pressing with the fingers (palpation) on the abdomen may show a mass or organ enlargement, particularly of the kidney or liver. Men may have a varicocele in the scrotum (a varicocele that is only on the right side is especially suspicious.)
The following tests may be performed to see if the cancer has spread:
Treatment Return to top
Surgical removal of all or part of the kidney (nephrectomy) is recommended. This may include removing the bladder or surrounding tissues or lymph nodes.
Radiation therapy does not usually work for renal cell carcinoma so it is not often used. Hormone treatments may reduce the growth of the tumor in some cases.
Chemotherapy is generally not effective for treating renal cell carcinoma. The drug interleukin-2 (IL-2) is effective in a small percentage of patients, but it is very toxic. Other chemotherapy drugs have been used, but patients generally do not live long once the disease has spead outside the kidney.
Newer therapies include sorafenib (Nexavar), sunitinib (Sutent), and temsirolimus (Torisel). The biologic drug bevacizumab (Avastin) has also been used.
A cure is unlikely unless all of the cancer is removed with surgery.
Support Groups Return to top
You can ease the stress of illness by joining a support group whose members share common experiences and problems. See cancer - support group and kidney disease - support group.
Outlook (Prognosis) Return to top
The outcome depends on how much the cancer has spread and how well it responds to treatment. The survival rate is highest if the tumor is in the early stages and has not spread outside the kidney. If it has spread to the lymph nodes or to other organs, the survival rate is much lower.
Possible Complications Return to top
When to Contact a Medical Professional Return to top
Call your health care provider any time you see blood in the urine. Also call if you have any other symptoms of this disorder.
Prevention Return to top
Stop smoking. Follow your health care provider's recommendations in the treatment of kidney disorders, especially those that may require dialysis.
References Return to top
Barjorin D. Tumors of the kidney, bladder, ureters, and renal pelvis. In: Goldman L, Ausiello D, eds. Cecil Medicine. 23rd ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier; 2007: chap 2007.
National Comprehensive Cancer Network Clinical Practice Guidelines in Oncology: Kidney Cancer. National Comprehensive Cancer Network; 2009. Version 1.2009.Update Date: 2/12/2009 Updated by: David C. Dugdale, III, MD, Professor of Medicine, Division of General Medicine, Department of Medicine, University of Washington School of Medicine; Yi-Bin Chen, MD, Leukemia/Bone Marrow Transplant Program, Massachusetts General Hospital. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.