About Kidney Cancer

Renal Cell Carcinoma (RCC) is the most common type of kidney cancer in adults, causing more than 90 percent of malignant kidney tumors.1 More than 50,000 Americans are diagnosed with RCC each year.  RCC affects more than 200,000 people annually around the globe.2 About 13,000 people die annually from the disease.3 Renal cell carcinoma begins deep within the kidney in the proximal renal tubule. This is a very small part of the kidney that is responsible for filtering the blood and helping in the formation of urine. As the cells become cancerous, they begin to grow in an uncontrolled fashion, creating a tumor. The tumor can then grow and spread (metastasize) to other, distant organs.

Risk Factors and Symptoms


RCC is usually diagnosed between the ages of 50 and 70 years, and strikes men more frequently in men than women.4

Risk factors

The greatest risk factor is cigarette smoke exposure. Obesity, hypertension (high blood pressure) and exposure to certain chemicals have also been associated, to a lesser degree, with kidney cancer, and some inherited risk factors may be involved.


Detecting renal cell carcinoma in its early stages is difficult because symptoms typically do not occur until the tumor has grown fairly large and displaces other nearby organs. One-quarter to one-third of all patients show evidence that the tumor has spread (metastasized) at the time of diagnosis.4 Many kidney (renal) tumors are found incidentally on x-rays or ultrasound examinations performed for reasons that don’t relate to the tumor. The most common symptom related to the tumor itself is blood in the urine. There may also be back pain or pressure in the lower back or side. A mass or lump on the side or lower back may also occur. If the tumor has spread to distant organs, patients may notice unexplained weight loss, fevers, anemia, high blood pressure or swelling of ankles and legs.

Prognosis and Survival

Once RCC has spread to other parts of the body, the five-year survival rate is between 5 to 15 percent.5


Surgery is the most common treatment for kidney cancer.  The type of surgery performed can vary, depending on each individual patient.  Options include removing either the entire kidney or the part of the kidney containing the tumor.Sometimes the adrenal gland and/or nearby lymph nodes are also removed.In addition to surgery, radiation and immunotherapy/biologic therapy are sometimes utilized.  More recently, targeted therapy, such as Nexavar® (sorafenib) tablets, is administered. These treatments are designed to interrupt the signals in the body that lead to the growth and spread of cancer cells. Data has show that the sequential use of targeted therapies extends benefit to kidney cancer patients.

1. http://www.cancer.org/cancer/kidneycancer/detailedguide/kidney-cancer-adult-what-is-kidney-cancer
2. http://www.cancer.org/cancer/kidneycancer/detailedguide/kidney-cancer-adult-key-statistics
3. Book - Renal Cell Carcinoma: Molecular Targets and Clinical Applications by Ronald M. Bukowsky, Springer, 2007
4. http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/000516.htm
5. http://www.cancersurvivalrates.net/kidney-cancer-survival-rates.html

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