Kidney Cancer


Mercy is a leader in diagnosing and treating cancers of the urinary system, including kidney cancers. We want to provide you with the best care possible, and our multispecialty team is here to help you in every aspect of your journey.

What is Kidney Cancer?

Kidney cancer is a type of genitourinary cancer that is also known as renal cancer. Your kidneys are a pair of small but powerful organs that filter waste products from your blood and convert them into urine. When cancer develops in your urinary tract, it can cause the kidney to stop working properly. Most kidney cancers begin as a single tumor inside the kidney. As cancer grows, it may spread beyond the kidney to the lymph nodes and other areas of the body.

Types of Kidney Cancer

Renal Cell Carcinoma (RCC)

RCC, also known as renal cell cancer or renal cell adenocarcinoma, makes up about 90% of kidney cancers. It usually beings as a single tumor in one kidney, but in some cases, there may be multiple tumors in one or both kidneys. Subtypes of RCC include:

  • Clear cell renal cell carcinoma
  • Papillary renal cell carcinoma
  • Chromophobe renal cell carcinoma
  • Unclassified renal cell carcinoma
  • Rare types of renal cell carcinoma

Transitional Cell Carcinoma (TCC)

Also known as urothelial cancer or renal pelvis carcinoma, TCC is a rare form of kidney cancer that affects the transitional cells in the urinary system. Because transitional cells are found throughout the urinary system, TCC is a common form of bladder cancer. When TCC affects the kidney, it often targets the renal pelvis in the center of the kidney. 

Wilms Tumor (Nephroblastoma)

Wilms tumor is a rare type of kidney cancer that is the most often found in children around 3-4 years old. It usually forms in only one kidney. 

Renal Sarcoma

Another type of rare kidney cancer, renal sarcoma forms in the renal veins (the veins that carry filtered blood back up to the heart for circulation). This type of kidney cancer is more likely to recur and spread than other forms.

Kidney Cancer Symptoms

As with most cancers, the earlier kidney cancer is diagnosed, the more likely it can be successfully treated. Signs of kidney cancer include:

  • Blood in your urine
  • Persistent back pain below the ribs
  • Fever that won’t go away, and has no known cause
  • Weight loss
  • Fatigue
  • Swelling of legs and ankles

Discussions on Kidney Cancer

Kidney Cancer Causes & Risk Factors

Many causes of kidney cancer are unknown. However, the known kidney cancer risk factors include:

  • Workplace exposure – certain substances like asbestos, trichloroethylene or herbicides have been shown to increase kidney cancer risk
  • Advanced kidney disease – a strong family history of renal cancer, especially among siblings, can increase risk
  • Dialysis – kidney disease and prolonged dialysis treatment can increase the risk of kidney cancer
  • Inherited risk factors – some rare inherited conditions that can cause kidney cancer include Cowden syndrome, tuberous sclerosis and hereditary leiomyoma RCC
  • Age – people over age 45 are more likely to be affected
  • Gender – RCC affects about twice as many men as it does women
  • Tobacco use – smoking raises the risk of cancer
  • Obesity  being obese or overweight may cause changes in some hormones that increase the risk of RCC
  • High blood pressure – people with high blood pressure have an increased risk of kidney cancer

Kidney Cancer Prevention

Unfortunately, there are no screenings or exams to detect kidney cancer in people of average risk. However, the following preventive factors may help reduce the risk:

  • Avoid tobacco
  • Maintain a healthy weight
  • Avoid exposure to harmful substances in the workplace
Diagnosis & Treatment for Kidney Cancer

If you’re experiencing symptoms of kidney cancer, it can be overwhelming. Mercy is here to help with everything from diagnosis to treatment. 

Learn about kidney cancer diagnosis and treatment options. 

View All Results View All Results