Renal cancer: Get informed

The kidneys are two bean-shaped organs situated on either side of the body, just below the ribcage. The main role of the kidneys is to filter waste from the blood, and to produce urine as a means of evacuating this undesirable substance. 


Kidney Cancer: definition

In cancer, the cell reproduction process is affected, meaning that cells start to grow and multiply in an uncontrolled manner. Normally only one of the kidneys is affected by cancer.

The signs and symptoms of kidney cancer can include: 

- The presence of blood in the urine (haematuria)
- Constant pain below the ribs
- A lump in the abdomen (stomach)
- A high temperature

In around 50% of cases, however, there are no symptoms and the cancer is only detected during tests for other, unrelated conditions. 

Different types of cancer can affect the kidneys. The most common form is renal cell carcinoma (RCC), representing more than 85% of cases of kidney cancer.

The rarer forms of kidney cancer are the following:

- Transitional cell carcinoma: this type of cancer develops in the lining of the renal pelvis and generally affects men aged 50 or more.
- Wilms’ tumour: this rare form of kidney cancer generally affects children under the age of 7 years.


Although the exact causes of kidney cancer remain unknown, there are nevertheless certain risk factors that can increase the probability of developing the disease. These include smoking and obesity. 

The secondary risk factors for kidney cancer include exposure to heavy metals and asbestos, as well as workplace exposure for people working in the steel industry.
In addition, the cause is hereditary in 2% of cases of kidney cancer, particularly in the case of Von Hippel-Lindau disease (VHL).

Kidney cancer is most common in people over the age of 50, and is more frequent in men than in women.

The treatment of kidney cancer depends on the size of the tumour and the propagation of the disease. Most often, surgery is the first line treatment, the aim being to eliminate the cancer cells.

Unlike most other forms of cancer, chemotherapy is not very effective in the treatment of kidney cancer. There are, however, non-surgical treatments available, such as radiotherapy or targeted therapies. The latter are generally used when the kidney cancer is at an advanced stage, that is, when it has spread beyond the kidneys (metastases).


For more information, you can go to the Renal Cancer Forum.

For further information: Mayo Clinic 

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