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Kidney cancer


Disease: Kidney cancer Kidney cancer
Category: Tumors

Disease Definition:

The kidney is a small organ about the size of the fist, shaped like a bean.
Each one on one side of the spine, kidneys are located behind the abdominal organs. Kidneys can sometimes develop cancer just like other major organs in the body.


Renal cell carcinoma is the most common type of kidney cancer in adults. In the cells that line the small tubes within the kidneys is where it begins.
On the other hand, children are more likely to develop Wilms' tumor, which is one type of kidney cancer.


During procedures for other diseases or conditions is when most kidney cancers are detected. Imaging techniques could help find more kidney cancers, and so they are being used more often. One of these techniques is CT (computerized tomography).

Work Group:

Symptoms, Causes


In the early stages, kidney cancer rarely causes signs or symptoms, while in the later stages, it may cause some of these signs and symptoms:


  • Back pain just below the ribs that doesn't go away
  • Blood in the urine, which may appear pink, red or cola-colored
  • Fatigue
  • Losing weight
  • Intermittent fever


Kidneys are the first part of the urinary system, which works on removing wastes, extra fluid and electrolytes from the blood, controlling the production of red blood cells, in addition to regulating blood pressure.
There are more than a million nephrons, which are small filtering units, inside each kidney.
When blood circulates through the kidneys, waste products as well as unneeded minerals and water are filtered out by the nephrons. Urine -liquid waste- flows through the ureters, which are two narrow tubes, into the bladder. After that, urine is stored in the bladder until it is eliminated from the body through the urethra, which is another tube.


The exact cause that makes kidney cells become cancerous is still not clear. However, researchers have succeeded in identifying certain factors that appear to increase the risk of kidney cancer.



These are some of the most common types of kidney cancer:

Transitional cell carcinoma:

Although this type usually occurs in the tissue that forms the tubes that connect the kidney to the bladder, however, it could also begin in the bladder or in the ureters themselves.

Renal cell carcinoma:

Despite the fact that this type, which usually begins in the cells that line the small tubes of each nephron, grows as a single mass, however, in some cases, a person could also develop tumors in both kidneys or he/she could develop more than one tumor in a kidney.

Wilms' tumor:

This type of kidney cancer occurs exclusively in children.





People with kidney cancer should discuss all of their treatment options with their treatment team. The patient’s general health, the kind of kidney cancer he/she has, whether the cancer has spread and the patient’s preferences is what the best approach will be based on.



The primary treatment for the most cases of kidney cancer is surgery.
The kinds of surgical procedures used to treat kidney cancer are:


In this treatment, the kidney and the adrenal gland located above the kidney, a border of healthy tissue and adjacent lymph nodes will be removed.
There are two types of nephrectomy; the first type can be done by making a large cut in the skin to access the kidney (incision), while the second type can be done laparoscopically, by using small incisions to insert a video camera and tiny surgical tools. In the second type, the surgeon will watch a video monitor in order to perform the nephrectomy.

Nephron-sparing surgery:

Instead of the entire kidney, only the tumor is removed in this procedure.
In case someone has an early-stage kidney cancer, or if he/she has only one kidney, this surgery could be an option.

Surgery carries a risk of bleeding and infection:

Based on the cancer and its stage as well as the patient’s health and personal preferences, the doctor will recommend the best type of surgery.



Surgery may be too risky for some people so, they have other options, such as:


A special material will be injected in this procedure into the main blood vessel that leads to the kidney. This special material works on blocking this blood vessel. By doing so, the tumor is deprived of nutrients and oxygen. Some of the side effects of this procedure include pain, nausea or vomiting. When an operation isn't possible, arterial embolization could be performed in order to relieve pain and bleeding. This procedure could also be done before an operation.


According to recent studies, cryoablation may be useful for treating kidney tumors that can't be removed through surgery. In this procedure, one or more cryoprobes, which are special needles, are inserted into the tumor through small incisions in the skin. The cells that are around the point of each needle freeze because the gas that is in the needles creates extreme cold. This procedure is monitored by a CT scan in order to ensure that all of the visible cancer tissue as well as some of the surrounding healthy tissue is frozen.


There is yet another type of gas in these needles that creates warmth to melt these frozen tissues. The repetition of this process causes death to the cancer cells. After this procedure, some pain may be experienced. Infections, damage to tissue surrounding the tumor in addition to bleeding are some of the rare side effects of this procedure.



When a kidney cancer recurs or if it spreads to other parts of the body, it could still be curable.
In these cases, treatments may include:

Surgery to remove as much of the kidney tumor as possible:

Even though when surgery can't remove all of the cancer, it may be helpful in removing as much of it as possible.

Biological therapy or immunotherapy:

Biological therapy is about using body's immune system to fight cancer. Interleukin-2 and interferon are some of the drugs that are included in this category. These drugs are synthetic versions of chemicals that are made in the body. Sometimes, biological therapy drugs are used alone, in combination or after surgery. These biological therapy drugs have serious side effects such as:


  • Fever
  • Chills
  • Loss of appetite
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting


Targeted therapy:

This therapy is about blocking specific abnormal signals that exist in kidney cancer cells that allow them to multiply. These drugs have shown promise in treating kidney cancer that has spread to other areas of the body.
The signals that play a role in the growth of blood vessels that provide nutrients to cancer cells allowing them to spread, are blocked by two targeted drugs called sunitinib and sorafenib.
The signal that allows cancer cells to grow and survive is also blocked by another targeted drug called temsirolimus.


There are some side effects to these drugs, such as:


  • A rash, which could be severe
  • Diarrhea
  • Fatigue


Targeted drugs are usually very expensive.

Treatments for distant tumors:

Sometimes, metastasized kidney cancer cells, which are cells that traveled to other parts of the body, could be treated. This treatment depends on the number of distant tumors, their locations in addition to the patient’s general health. The variation of treatment options will be based on where the cancer has spread. These Options might include radiation for kidney cancer that has spread to bones or surgery for brain metastasis.

Treatment for transitional cell cancer:

This kind of treatment involves an extensive operation to remove the tumor, ureter, kidney and a part of the bladder. In some cases, surgery to remove only the tumor may be an option.
In treating transitional cell cancer that recurs or has spread, chemotherapy, which is a chemical drug treatment, could be quite useful. This kind of treatment is useful in killing quickly growing cells, such as cancer cells. Rapidly growing cells, such as those in the hair follicles and the gastrointestinal tract are also killed by chemotherapy drugs. Hair loss, nausea and vomiting are some of the side effects of chemotherapy drugs.


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