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Kidney cancer

This page was reviewed under our medical and editorial policy by
Maurie Markman, MD, President, Medicine & Science at CTCA.

This page was updated on April 29, 2022.

Kidney cancer, also called renal cancer, is the sixth most common cancer in American men and ninth most common in U.S. women. An estimated 79,000 Americans will be diagnosed with kidney cancer in 2022, and more than 4 percent of all new cancers diagnosed are kidney cancers, according to the National Cancer Institute (NCI).

No kidney cancer patient is the same. Get personalized treatment.

Kidney cancer is among the 10 most common cancers in the United States. And yet many symptoms, such as blood in the urine, fatigue or unexplained weight loss, may be overlooked or dismissed as side effects of less serious illnesses. That’s why an accurate and timely diagnosis is important. If you or your loved one is experiencing signs of kidney cancer or if you’ve already been diagnosed with kidney cancer and are interested in a second opinion, the cancer experts at Cancer Treatment Centers of America® (CTCA) have the training, expertise and sophisticated technology needed to confirm your diagnosis and, if needed, develop a personalized treatment plan designed to meet your individual needs and treatment goals.

The oncologists at CTCA® have extensive experience in diagnosing and staging kidney cancer and developing a comprehensive treatment plan that also helps each patient address related side effects. Our cancer hospitals offer an array of options for treating the disease, such as with robotic surgery, laparoscopic nephrectomy, targeted therapy and other evidence-informed approaches.

This overview will cover the basic facts about kidney cancer, including:

If you believe you may be experiencing symptoms of kidney cancer and want to schedule an appointment for diagnostic testing, or if you’re interested in a second opinion for kidney cancer at CTCA, call us or chat online with a member of our team.

What are the risk factors for kidney cancer?

Who gets kidney cancer?

As with most cancers, the risk for developing kidney cancer increases with age. According to the NCI and ACS:

  • The average age of a person diagnosed with kidney cancer is 64.
  • The median age of a person who dies from kidney cancer is 72.
  • Most people diagnosed with kidney cancer are between 65 and 74.
  • Kidney cancer is about twice as common in men than in women, and African Americans, American Indian and Alaskan Natives are more likely to be diagnosed.
Rozanne Waling

Roxanne W.

Pancreatic Cancer

"The treatments were difficult to get through at times. My hands became numb and I had very painful mouth sores that lasted throughout chemotherapy. After the six hours of chemotherapy infusion, there were times when I could not make it to my room unassisted. But the truth is, I never had to make it to my room unassisted. There was always someone there to help. My care team did their best to help reduce the pain of the mouth sores and to provide comfort in whatever way they could."

MORE ABOUT ROXANNE

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Kidney cancer symptoms

Signs and symptoms of kidney cancer don’t usually become noticeable until late in the disease. In the early stages, there are usually no symptoms. If they do develop, they may include:

  • Pain in back or side
  • Swelling or lump in back or side
  • Blood in the urine
  • Fatigue
  • Swelling in the ankles
  • Loss of appetite and unexplained weight loss
  • Rapid swelling in the testicle area for men
  • Unexplainable fevers that come and go

Signs of kidney cancer caused by changes in kidney hormones may include:

Learn more about kidney cancer symptoms

Types of kidney cancer

Diagnosing kidney cancer

Many early kidney cancers are discovered during testing for other reasons. A urine sample may show blood, or a blood test may detect anemia. An imaging study of the abdomen for unrelated symptoms may reveal kidney cancer.

If doctors suspect kidney cancer, imaging studies are important for diagnosis. In some cases, kidney cancer may be diagnosed with imaging studies alone.

These include:

If surgery is recommended, the diagnosis also may be confirmed post-op by looking at cancer cells under a microscope, called pathologic diagnosis. Kidney cancer also may be confirmed with a needle biopsy.

Learn more about diagnosing kidney cancer

Staging kidney cancer

Kidney cancer treatment options

Multiple treatment options are used for kidney cancer, and which are appropriate for you depends on the stage and location of the disease. The approach to treating kidney cancer also depends on a patient’s age and healthy history. A multidisciplinary team of cancer experts will recommend treatment options based on each patient’s unique diagnosis, as well as any concerns about side effects and personal preferences. Common treatments for kidney cancer include:

In addition to these treatment options, new therapies are always being studied in clinical trials. Before proceeding with treatment, patients may want to ask their doctor whether enrolling in a clinical trial would be the right approach.

Learn more about treatments for kidney cancer

Kidney cancer diagnosis and treatment options at our Genitourinary Cancer Program

Supportive care

Supportive care therapies that may be recommended to help patients with kidney cancer stay strong and maintain their quality of life include:

​Nutritional support

Every patient has the option of meeting with a registered dietitian.

​Pain management

Pain management is a branch of medicine focused on reducing pain and improving quality of life through an integrative approach to care.

​Oncology rehabilitation

​Oncology rehabilitation includes a wide range of therapies designed to help you build strength and endurance.

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