Kidney Cancer

Kidney Cancer: Symptoms and Treatment Image

Kidney cancer incidence rates in the United States have risen dramatically since the 1950s. They have risen over 126 percent, translating into over 30,000 new cases a year. Death rates have risen by 36.5 percent, causing approximately 11,900 deaths a year.

The rise in incidence rates may be explained at least in part by better diagnostic tools: thanks to CT scans, ultrasounds and other tools, kidney cancer is diagnosed with greater frequency than it was in the past. Early detection of the disease has also helped improve five-year survival rates. While the 1950s saw average survival rates of 34 percent, by 1996 the average five-year survival rate had risen to 62 percent.

Kidney Cancer Symptoms

The most common kidney cancer symptoms, or the so-called “classic triad” includes:

  • Hematuria (the presence of blood in urine)
  • Pain (typically felt in the lower back, just below the ribs)
  • Palpable mass (usually detected during routine examinations).

In addition to these classic kidney cancer symptoms, others may include:

  • Anemia (lack of red blood cells)
  • Fatigue
  • Fever
  • Night sweats
  • Weight loss.

Learn more about common Kidney Cancer Symptoms.

About Your Kidneys

Your kidneys are twin organs that play important roles in the urinary system, the production of red blood cells, and the control of blood pressure. Red-brown and approximately the size of a fist, they are located at the back of the abdominal cavity. Their main function is to filter excess fluids, salt and waste products from the body.

Kidney Cancer Statistics

  • It makes up 3 percent of all cancer cases.
  • It’s the eighth most common malignancy in men.
  • It’s the tenth most common malignancy in women.

Renal Cell Carcinoma

This site focuses on renal cell carcinoma (RCC), the most common form of kidney cancer. Renal cell carcinoma accounts for up to 95 percent of all cases. The kidneys contain millions of tiny filters called nephrons. Nephrons in turn contain small tubes called tubules. RCC usually starts in the cells that line the tubules.

Smoking and Environmental Risk factors

Smoking is one of the key risk factors for malignant renal tumors. Smoking doubles the risk of kidney cancer. The more you smoke, the greater the risk. Quitting smoking decreases risk levels.

In addition to cigarette smoke, a number of occupational and environmental hazards increase the risk of renal tumors. People who work with asbestos or petroleum products increase the possibility that they will contract the disease.

Incidence rates are also higher among steel plant coal oven workers. Exposure to heavy metals such as lead and cadmium may also raise risk levels.

Obesity and Hypertension

Hypertension, or high blood pressure, has been linked quite convincingly to RCC. Efforts to study the connections among obesity, high fat diets and RCC are inconclusive, but some evidence appears to indicate that a connection may eventually be established.

Gender and Age

Advancing age appears to be correlated to the chance of developing renal tumors. Most cases of renal cell carcinoma occur between the ages of fifty and seventy, with an average age at diagnosis of 66. Gender also plays a significant role. Men are twice as likely as women to develop kidney cancer.

Hereditary Factors

A family history of RCC may alert some individuals to the possibility of developing the disease, but heredity does not appear to play a large role. Rare genetic mutations can increase the chance of RCC. People living with tuberous sclerosis and von Hippel Lindau disease may develop it. Von Hippel Lindau disease causes tumors in the kidneys, eyes, spine and brain, and has an incidence rate one in every 36,000 births.

Medical Factors

The use or, more properly, the over-use of phenacetin or acetaminophen-containing analgesics has been linked to increased chances of developing kidney tumors. Investigations into this claim are ongoing.

The long-term uses of dialysis machines by people with renal failure carries with it a slightly increased chance of developing RCC.

Wilms Tumor and Children

>Wilms tumor is a form of pediatric kidney cancer. Pediatric treatment options differ from those required for adult RCC. You can find out more about this childhood disease on this site’s Wilms’ tumor page.


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