Kidney cancer is a type of cancer that starts in the kidney. In 2021, the American Cancer Society estimates about 76,080 new cases of kidney cancer (48,780 in males and 27,300 in females) will be diagnosed in the United States. About 13,780 people (8,790 males and 4,990 females) will die from this disease.
Most people with kidney cancer are older. The average age of people when they are diagnosed is 64 with most people being diagnosed between ages 65 and 74. Kidney cancer is very uncommon in people younger than age 45.
Renal cell carcinoma (RCC), also known as renal cell cancer or renal cell adenocarcinoma, is the most common type of kidney cancer accounting for about 9 out of 10 kidney cancers. Although RCC usually grows as a single tumor within a kidney, sometimes there are two or more tumors in one kidney or even tumors in both kidneys at the same time. There are several subtypes of RCC, based mainly on how the cancer cells look in the lab. Other types of kidney cancers include transitional cell carcinomas, Wilms tumors, and renal sarcomas.
Most renal masses have no symptoms in the early stages. But, if there are symptoms, they will most likely be:
A risk factor is anything that increases your chance of getting a disease such as cancer. Different cancers have different risk factors. Some risk factors, like smoking, can be changed. Others, like your age or family history, can’t be changed.
But having a risk factor, or even several risk factors does not mean that you will get the disease. And some people who get the disease may have few or no known risk factors. For kidney cancer, risk factors include:
For some patients, surgery is never needed. Your provider will evaluate your preferences, tumor factors and likely outcomes to see if active surveillance is a good treatment option for you. Tumor factors will include size, stage and growth progression. The goals of this option are to stop the spread of cancer, maintain kidney function and avoid potential side effects of treatment.
Sometimes, surgery is an option. A surgeon can remove all or part of the kidney. If your tumor is small (less than 4 cm in size), your surgeon may consider ablation. Ablation destroys the tumor with extreme heat or cold.