Kidney Cancer

Kidney cancer occurs in the cells of the kidney and is caused by the rapid abnormal overgrowth of these cells. These tumours begin small and grow larger over time usually growing as a single mass but more than one tumour may occur in one or both kidneys. Kidney cancer is mostly a disease seen in adults over 55 years of age and is rare in children.

Tumours can be benign (not cancerous) or malignant (cancerous). Benign tumours do not spread or metastasize to other parts of the body.

Malignant tumours may spread into surrounding tissue and to other parts of the body thus early treatment is necessary. Improved outcomes for kidney cancer are due to increases in detection and early treatment.

Kidney cancer is one of the ten most common cancers diagnosed in Australia.The most common kind of kidney cancer is known as renal cell carcinoma and accounts for approx 85%.

Other types of kidney cancers include:

  • Transitional Cell carcinoma (TCC)
  • Renal Cell Sarcoma (rare)
  • Wilms Tumour ( rare childhood cancer)

People at higher risk:

The cause of kidney cancer is unknown however there are some factors that put some people at higher risk. These include:

  • Smoking ( up to 1/3 rd of kidney cancers are thought to be due to smoking)
  • Overuse of analgesia containing phenacetin(no longer available)
  • Cadmium or asbestos exposure
  • Family history
  • Being male (more likely to develop in men than women)

Symptoms may include:

  • Blood in urine
  • Pain or dull aching(Lower back or side)
  • Lump in abdomen
  • Constant tiredness
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Unexplained fever
  • Unfortunately in the early stages there may be no symptoms.

The main treatment for kidney cancer is surgery which may involve removal of the whole kidney known as Radical Nephrectomy or removal of part of the kidney known as Partial Nephrectomy

Surgery may be done as a stand alone procedure but is can also be done in combination with chemotherapy and /or radiotherapy.

Other treatments include Immunotherapy and tyrosine kinase inhibitors.

Prognosis in Australia for kidney cancer is 72% however it varies depending on age and health of the patient and also on the type and stage of cancer at diagnosis. Remember the earlier the diagnosis the better the prognosis.