Diagnosing kidney cancer involves a series of blood and urine tests as well as imaging tests — such as an ultrasound, X-ray, CT or MRI scans — to check the size of the tumor or spread of the cancer. A tumor biopsy or tumor surgery gives us details about the stage of your kidney cancer.
Kidney cancer overview
Each year at Fred Hutchinson Cancer Center, our kidney cancer experts treat more than 200 patients with kidney cancer. Our doctors are experienced in treating people with all subtypes of kidney cancer, including renal cell carcinoma (RCC), transitional cell carcinoma (TCC), renal sarcoma and Wilms tumors.
Often, we are able to diagnose kidney cancer before it spreads, and treatment can leave many patients cancer-free.
Fred Hutch: A Leader in Kidney Cancer Research
Our doctors do research through Fred Hutch and UW Medicine, which are both national leaders in kidney cancer research. Fred Hutch doctors have led the development of many of the newer approaches for metastatic kidney cancer approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and continue to do clinical trials of new therapies that are not yet available everywhere.
Over the years, Fred Hutch has led many clinical studies of new drugs for renal cell carcinoma (RCC) that have led to changes in the standard of care. In recent years, Fred Hutch research has developed new ways to make it less likely that cancer will return and to significantly slow down how fast the disease grows.
Most people with kidney cancer first come to Fred Hutch after being diagnosed by another doctor, often their primary care doctor. We confirm this diagnosis and other details about your disease so we can provide the right treatment for you.
Your First Appointment
Based on your exact needs, your first appointment will either be with the team in our Kidney Cancer Multispecialty Clinic (KCMC) or with a urologic oncologist or medical oncologist who specializes in kidney cancers.
From the first time you come to see us, your kidney cancer team will begin getting to know you and your family. What are your questions? What are your concerns?
At your first appointment, your care team will also explain your specific disease. They will tell you how it’s treated and which tests you need to help plan your individual care. Before you leave, your team will make sure you understand the next steps.
Care at Fred Hutch
Fred Hutch has specialists who are experts in the most effective therapies for kidney cancer, called the “standard of care,” which will give you the best chance at a full recovery. Most patients are diagnosed early with stage I (one) or stage II (two) kidney cancer. These patients usually have surgery to remove the tumor, and they have a high chance of success through treatment.
Some patients who are diagnosed with stage III (three) or stage IV (four) kidney cancer have surgery to remove the cancer, along with follow-up care like immunotherapies or targeted therapies that keep the cancer from coming back or slow down its growth.
More patients are living full lives with kidney cancer, and treatment for stage IV, or metastatic kidney cancer, is constantly improving. For example, research has shown that instead of having surgery, medications may be a better option for some patients.
Kidney Cancer Multispecialty Clinic
At Fred Hutch’s Kidney Cancer Multispecialty Clinic (KCMC), patients with metastatic kidney cancer get multidisciplinary consultations and care to understand and access all the latest treatment options.
Here, we guide you through complex treatment decisions and provide seamless, comprehensive care. Patients meet with specialists from all disciplines, all in the same day, at KCMC. Each treatment plan is created just for you and may include surgery, radiation, immunotherapies and/or targeted therapies.
Our doctors and researchers are always asking how we can increase the effectiveness of kidney cancer treatments and reduce the side effects. Our clinical trials (also called clinical studies) deliver innovative therapies that are not available everywhere, and many of our past trials have become today’s standard of care.
Along with your doctor and care team, a group of world-class professionals is here to support you. This team includes nurses, registered dietitians, physical therapists, social workers and psychologists. We integrate supportive care services in your treatment and recovery to promote your physical, mental and emotional well-being.
Brent Hall lives his life at full speed. As a professional hydroplane driver, Brent races boats at over 150 mph, achieving a dream he had as a boy growing up on Mercer Island. He was a rookie driver later in life at 36, and has earned national rankings in several different classes of hydroplanes. Brent is focused on going fast on the water — but not too long ago, he had to slow things down in order to focus on cancer treatment.
Treatment Plan and Process
People with different types of kidney cancer respond to treatments in different ways. You are unique, and your care team will offer treatment specifically for — and with — you. At Fred Hutch, doctors with knowledge and experience in your subtype of kidney cancer will design your treatment plan and provide your care. This expert treatment includes both common and rare tumors that can sometimes appear in the kidneys.
For one person with kidney cancer, surgery might be the first step. Someone else might start with radiation therapy, targeted therapy or immunotherapy. Sometimes, chemotherapy is recommended. As you go through treatment, your needs may change. Your care team at Fred Hutch is with you each step of the way. For example, we will help you cope with any side effects you have. We may suggest adding a new therapy that was just approved. Even after your kidney cancer treatment is complete, we will keep seeing you to protect your health over the long term
When someone close to you is diagnosed with kidney cancer, you might step into the role of caregiver. Being a caregiver can mean many things, from lending a hand with daily living tasks to helping with medical decisions. It can also mean dealing with your own emotions and stress.
At Fred Hutch, caregivers are valuable members of a patient’s care team. We see every day that your support makes a difference. We know that what your friend or family member is going through affects you, too.
Part of our mission is to help you take care of yourself. Caring for yourself is good for your physical, mental and emotional health. It also helps you give your best to your loved one. Our social workers, Spiritual Health team and Patient and Family Resource Center staff are here to help support you.
At Fred Hutch, a team of dedicated people surrounds you and your family to give you the highest level of care and support.
Fred Hutch is a national leader in kidney cancer research. In the past 15 years, research into targeted therapies and immunotherapies has found new ways to control kidney cancer.
There are many resources for learning about your disease, as well as organizations that provide support. Health educators at the Fred Hutch Patient and Family Resource Center have put together a list of trusted sources to help you get started.