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Kidney Cancer

Kidney cancer (also known as renal cancer) is very common, and tends to affect those in their 60s or 70s. If caught early, it can be treated.

What is kidney cancer?

The kidneys are two organs shaped like beans, each the size of a fist. Their function is to detoxify your blood and make waste products and urine.

If your kidney cells change and become malignant (cancerous), forming a tumour, you get kidney cancer.

The vast majority of cases of kidney cancer are formed in the small tubes in the kidney – known as renal cell carcinoma.

What are the symptoms of kidney cancer?

You may not experience any symptoms and sometimes might be diagnosed with kidney cancer during a test for a different condition.

However, if you do have symptoms, the most common include:

  • Lump / swelling in your side
  • Blood in your urine
  • Lower back / side pain
  • Loss of appetite / unexplained weight loss
  • Fatigue
  • Fever that lasts for weeks

If you have any of these symptoms, you should see your doctor.

What causes kidney cancer?

It’s not clear what causes kidney cancer, but there are certain risk factors that make you more likely to get it, such as:

  • Smoking
  • Being obese
  • High blood pressure
  • Your genes – if you have family member with kidney cancer, this might increase your chances
  • Your gender – men are twice as likely to get it than women
  • Your ethnicity – it is more prevalent in people of African and African-Caribbean descent

How is kidney cancer diagnosed?

If you’re experiencing symptoms you think might be caused by kidney cancer, see your doctor. To help make a diagnosis, your doctor will ask you about your medical history and symptoms, perform a physical examination, checking your abdomen and side for lumps.

They may test your urine or refer you for blood tests, an MRI, ultrasound, CT scan or IVP (a kind of x-ray).

How is kidney cancer treated?

Treatment options vary individual by individual. Your treatment depends on a range of factors, such as the stage the cancer is at, your own wishes and your health profile.

In most cases, you’ll be recommended surgery. The type of surgery you have will depend on how far the cancer has spread:

  • A simple nephrectomy only removes the kidney
  • A partial nephrectomy removes the kidney and some tissue surrounding it
  • A radical nephrectomy removes the kidney, adrenal gland and surrounding tissue, and sometimes lymph nodes that are in close proximity to the kidney

If a surgeon ends up taking out both of your kidneys, you’ll need a kidney transplant or dialysis machine (which helps clean your blood).

If surgery doesn’t stop the cancer, other options are cryotherapy, radiofrequency ablation or arterial embolisation. Your doctor will discuss your options with you in detail and recommend what they think is the best option.

If you’re unsure what treatment you should go for, or the above treatments don’t work for you, our team of expert specialists are here to help.

This content has been checked and approved by

Mr Bijan Khoubehi  ›

Bijan Khoubehi is a Consultant Urological Surgeon at King Edward VII’s Hospital

Find your specialist in kidney cancer at King Edward VII's Hospital

If you suspect you have kidney cancer and you’re seeking an expert opinion, you can find the UK’s leading urology specialists here at King Edward VII’s Hospital. Our consultants are hand-picked for you, making it easy to access the best possible care.

Mr Ravi Barod  ›
Special interests include:
Kidney cancer (+ 5) more
Mr Bijan Khoubehi  ›
Special interests include:
Prostate cancer (+ 4) more
Mr Daron Smith  ›
Special interests include:
Urinary tract stone disease (+ 11) more

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