Kidney Cancer

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Kidney Cancer Facts

Get the facts about kidney cancer from Dr. Scott Tykodi

Kidney cancer is a type of cancer that starts in the kidneys. It is among the 10 most common cancers in both men and women. Men are at higher risk. Kidney cancer is uncommon in people younger than 45; it occurs most often in people 55 or older.

While the rate of people being diagnosed with kidney cancer has been slowly rising since the 1970s, the death rate has been slowly declining since the 1990s. In recent years, the American Cancer Society has estimated there were approximately 64,000 new cases and about 14,000 deaths from kidney cancer annually in the United States.

Genetic changes can be used to help diagnose cancer, understand the risk of recurrence and outlook for survival, and guide therapy decisions. Seattle Cancer Care Alliance (SCCA) has a new chromosome genomic array test called OncoScan CGAT to help identify these changes in people with kidney cancer.

Prognosis (chance of recovery) and treatment options depend on a number of factors, including:

  • The type of kidney cancer you have
  • The stage of the cancer (size, location, and extent of tumors)
  • Your general health
  • Your symptoms

There are four types of kidney cancer: renal cell carcinoma, transitional cell carcinoma, Wilms tumor, and renal sarcoma. There are also three types of benign (noncancerous) kidney tumors: renal adenoma, oncocytoma, and angiomyolipoma. Learn more about kidney cancer types and stages as well as the symptoms, diagnosis, and risk factors.

There are more treatment options available for patients with kidney cancer than ever before. While the most common treatment is still surgery, many new targeted therapies have recently been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Patients at SCCA also have access to clinical studies of investigational treatment options being evaluated here and across the country

Understanding the Kidneys

To understand kidney cancer, it helps to have a basic knowledge of the kidneys.

Your kidneys are a pair of organs that lie in the back of your abdomen. Each kidney is about the size of a fist. These organs are part of the urinary tract; they make urine by removing waste and extra water from your blood. Your kidneys also make substances to help control blood pressure and to make red blood cells.

image of kidneys

At the top of each kidney is an adrenal gland. A layer of fatty tissue and an outer fibrous tissue surround the kidney and adrenal gland. (source: National Cancer Institute Allan Hoofring-Illustrator).

While kidneys are important, you actually need less than one complete kidney to function. Some people who do not have any working kidneys survive with the help of dialysis—using a specially designed machine that filters blood just like a kidney.