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    Renal cell carcinoma

    Renal cancer; Kidney cancer; Hypernephroma; Adenocarcinoma of renal cells; Cancer - kidney

    Renal cell carcinoma is a type of kidney cancer that starts in the lining of very small tubes (tubules) in the kidney.


    Renal cell carcinoma is the most common type of kidney cancer in adults. It occurs most often in men ages 50to 70.

    The exact cause is unknown.

    The following may increase your risk of kidney cancer:

    • Dialysis treatment
    • Family history of the disease
    • High blood pressure
    • Horseshoe kidney
    • Polycystic kidney disease
    • Smoking
    • Von Hippel-Lindau disease (a hereditary disease that affects blood vessels in the brain, eyes, and other body parts)


    • Abdominal pain and swelling
    • Back pain
    • Blood in the urine
    • Swelling of the veins around a testicle (varicocele)
    • Flank pain
    • Weight loss

    Other symptoms that can occur with this disease:

    • Excessive hair growth in females
    • Pale skin
    • Vision problems

    Exams and Tests

    The health care provider will perform a physical exam. This may reveal:

    • Mass or swelling of the abdomen
    • A varicocele in the male scrotum

    Tests include:

    • Abdominal CT scan
    • Blood chemistry
    • Complete blood count (CBC)
    • Intravenous pyelogram (IVP)
    • Liver function tests
    • Renal arteriography
    • Ultrasound of the abdomen and kidney
    • Urine tests

    The following tests may be done to see if the cancer has spread:

    • Abdominal CT scan
    • Abdominal MRI
    • Bone scan
    • Chest x-ray
    • Chest CT scan
    • PET scan


    Surgery to remove of all or part of the kidney (nephrectomy) is recommended. This may include removing the bladder, surrounding tissues, or lymph nodes. A cure is unlikely unless all of the cancer is removed with surgery.

    Hormone treatments may make the tumor smallerin some cases.

    Chemotherapy is generally not effective for treating kidney cancer. Themedicine interleukin-2 (IL-2) may help some patients. Other medicines may be usedto treat kidney cancer. Your doctor can tell you more.

    Radiation therapy usually does not work for kidney cancer.

    Support Groups

    You can ease the stress of illness by joining a support group whose members share common experiences and problems.

    Outlook (Prognosis)

    Sometimes both kidneys are involved. The cancer spreads easily, most often to the lungs and other organs. In about one-third of patients, the cancer has already spread (metastasized) at the time of diagnosis.

    How well a patient does depends on how much the cancer has spread and how well treatment works. The survival rate is highest if the tumor is in the early stages and has not spread outside the kidney. If it has spread to the lymph nodes or to other organs, the survival rate is much lower.

    Possible Complications

    • High blood pressure (hypertension)
    • Too much calcium in the blood
    • High red blood cell count
    • Liver problems
    • Spread of the cancer

    When to Contact a Medical Professional

    Call your health care provider any time you see blood in the urine. Also call if you have any other symptoms of this disorder.


    Stop smoking. Follow your health care provider's recommendations in the treatment of kidney disorders, especially those that may require dialysis.


    National Cancer Institute: PDQ Renal Cell Cancer Treatment. Bethesda, MD: National Cancer Institute. Date last modified 02/08/2013. Available at Accessed March 7, 2013.

    National Comprehensive Cancer Network. NCCN Clinical Practice Guidelines in Oncology: Kidney cancer. Version 1.2013. Available at Accessed March 7, 2013.

    Pili R,Rodriguez R. Cancer of the kidney. In: Abeloff MD, Armitage JO, Niederhuber JE, et al., eds. Abeloff’s Clinical Oncology. 4th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Churchill-Livingstone; 2008:chap 86.


    • Kidney anatomy


    • Kidney tumor - CT scan


    • Kidney metastases, CT sc...


    • Kidney - blood and urine...


      • Kidney anatomy


      • Kidney tumor - CT scan


      • Kidney metastases, CT sc...


      • Kidney - blood and urine...


      A Closer Look

      Talking to your MD

        Self Care

          Tests for Renal cell carcinoma

          Review Date: 3/4/2013

          Reviewed By: Yi-Bin Chen, MD, Leukemia/Bone Marrow Transplant Program, Massachusetts General Hospital. Also reviewed by A.D.A.M. Health Solutions, Ebix, Inc., Editorial Team: David Zieve, MD, MHA, Bethanne Blackman, Stephanie Slon, and Nissi Wang.

          The information provided herein should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed medical professional should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Links to other sites are provided for information only -- they do not constitute endorsements of those other sites. © 1997- A.D.A.M., Inc. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.

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