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Kidney Cancer

< Urologic Cancer

Kidney Cancer

About Kidney Cancer

The kidneys are a pair of bean-shaped organs, each about the size of a fist. They are attached to the upper back wall of the abdomen and protected by the lower rib cage. One kidney is just to the left and the other just to the right of the backbone.

Renal cell carcinoma (RCC)

...also known as renal cell cancer or renal cell adenocarcinoma, is by far the most common type of kidney cancer. About 9 out of 10 kidney cancers are renal cell carcinomas.

Although RCC usually grows as a single tumor within a kidney, sometimes there are 2 or more tumors in one kidney or even tumors in both kidneys at the same time.

There are several subtypes of RCC, based mainly on how the cancer cells look under a microscope. Knowing the subtype of RCC can be a factor in deciding treatment and can also help your doctor determine if your cancer might be due to an inherited genetic syndrome.

Clear cell renal cell carcinoma

This is the most common form of renal cell carcinoma. About 7 out of 10 people with RCC have this kind of cancer. When seen under a microscope, the cells that make up clear cell RCC look very pale or clear.

Papillary renal cell carcinoma: this is the second most common subtype – about 1 in 10 RCCs are of this type. These cancers form little finger-like projections (called papillae) in some, if not most, of the tumor. Some doctors call these cancers chromophilic because the cells take in certain dyes and look pink under the microscope.

Chromophobe renal cell carcinoma

Rhis subtype accounts for about 5% (5 cases in 100) of RCCs. The cells of these cancers are also pale, like the clear cells, but are much larger and have certain other features that can be recognized when looked at with a microscope.

Rare types of renal cell carcinoma:

These subtypes are very rare, each making up less than 1% of RCCs:

  • Collecting duct RCC
  • Multilocular cystic RCC
  • Medullary carcinoma
  • Mucinous tubular and spindle cell carcinoma
  • Neuroblastoma-associated RCC
  • Unclassified renal cell carcinoma: rarely, renal cell cancers are labeled as unclassified because the way they look doesn’t fit into any of the other categories or because there is more than one type of cell present.

Other types of kidney cancers include transitional cell carcinomas, Wilms tumors and renal sarcomas.


Early kidney cancers do not usually cause any signs or symptoms, but larger ones might. Some possible signs and symptoms of kidney cancer include:

  • A mass (lump) on the side or lower back
  • Anemia (low red blood cell counts)
  • Blood in the urine (hematuria)
  • Fatigue (tiredness)
  • Fever that is not caused by an infection and that doesn’t go away
  • Low back pain on one side (not caused by injury)
  • Loss of appetite
  • Weight loss not caused by dieting

Risk Factors

  • Advanced kidney disease
  • Certain medicines like Phenacetin and diuretics
  • Family history of Kidney Cancer
  • Gender
  • Genetic and hereditary risk factors
  • High blood pressure
  • Obesity
  • Race
  • Smoking
  • Workplace exposures