Kidney cancer care
Allina Health offers a complete range of holistic care aimed at preventing, detecting and treating cancers of the kidney.
Kidney cancer detection and treatment is handled by our Genitourinary Cancer Program. They are a highly skilled team of experts who offer diagnosis and treatment of cancers including prostate, kidney, bladder and testicular.
What it is
Cancer of the renal pelvis or ureter is cancer that forms in the kidney's pelvis or the tube (ureter) that carries urine from the kidney to the bladder.
Kidney Cancer Types
Renal cell carcinoma (cancer) (RCC) is the most prevalent form of kidney cancer. Types of RCC include clear cell, papillary, chromophobe and collecting duct carcinomas. Clear cell carcinoma accounts for 80% of all RCC cases, and most treatments are focused on this type.
Wilms’ tumor is a childhood cancer, responsible for 95% of pediatric kidney cancer cases.
Urothelial cancer of the kidney pelvis and ureter: Cancer of the urinary tract that occurs in the kidney or ureter is called urothelial carcinoma. It is not considered kidney cancer, although it is frequently called that in error.
Some cases of kidney cancer can be passed down from one generation to the next. Genetic counseling may be right for you.
Long-term (chronic) irritation of the kidney from harmful substances removed in the urine may be a factor. This irritation may be caused by:
- kidney damage from medicines, especially ones for pain (analgesic nephropathy)
- exposure to certain dyes and chemicals used to manufacture leather goods, textiles, plastics, and rubber
People who have had bladder cancer are also at risk.
Kidney Cancer Risks
- Age: Most cases occur after age 50
- Gender: Men are more than twice as likely to get kidney cancer as women
- High blood pressure
- Exposure to asbestos, cadmium, and coke (used in making steel), benzene, herbicides and organic solvents
- Advanced kidney disease and long-term kidney dialysis
- Race: African-Americans have a slightly higher rate of kidney cancer
- Rare inherited conditions including von Hippel-Lindau disease or hereditary papillary renal cell carcinoma
- Family history of kidney disease
Good to know
Symptoms may include any of the following:
- constant back pain
- blood in the urine
- burning, pain, or discomfort with urination
- flank pain
- unexplained weight loss
- loss of appetite
- urinary frequency or urgency
- lump or mass on the side or lower back
- unexplained fever for a few weeks
- rapid weight loss
- lingering dull ache or pain in the side, abdomen or lower back
- feeling fatigued or in poor health
- swelling of ankles and legs
Diagnosis and treatment
Some of the things your doctor may check or look for are:
- blood in your urine (hematuria)
- a mass in your kidney(s) (renal mass)
- a complete blood count (CBC) may show anemia
- urine cytology (microscopic examination of cells) which may reveal cancer cells.
- CT or CAT (computed axial tomography) scans
- MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) scans
- chest x-Ray
- bone scan
- biopsy or fine needle aspiration
Your cancer care team will work with you to develop your cancer treatment plan. The plan is unique to your medical diagnosis, pathology and preferences. Your plan could include any of these cancer treatment options:
- radical nephrectomy (removal of the entire kidney and surrounding tissue)
- laparoscopic radical nephrectomy (removal with laparoscope)
- partial nephrectomy (only the cancerous portion is removed along with a margin of healthy tissue around it.
- radiation therapy
- radiofrequency ablation (RFA)- uses heat to destroy cancer cells
Reviewed by: Melissa Wall, director, Program Development, Cancer Center