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Kidney Cancer: Symptoms, Signs, Causes & Treatment

Kidney cancer, also known as renal cancer, is a serious health condition that arises when abnormal cells in the kidney grow uncontrollably. Early detection and treatment are crucial for improving outcomes.


What is Kidney Cancer?

Kidney cancer originates in the kidneys—two bean-shaped organs located on either side of the spine, just below the ribcage. The kidneys play a vital role in filtering waste from the blood and producing urine. When kidney cells become abnormal and multiply uncontrollably, they form a tumor, which can be benign or malignant. Malignant tumors are cancerous and can spread to other parts of the body.

Types of Kidney Cancer

Renal Cell Carcinoma (RCC): This is the most common type, accounting for approximately 85% of cases. RCC begins in the lining of the small tubes in the kidney.

Urothelial Carcinoma: Also known as transitional cell carcinoma, this type affects the lining of the renal pelvis where the kidney joins the ureter.

Wilms’ Tumor: More common in children, this type is rare in adults.

Sarcoma: A rare type that forms in the soft tissues of the kidney.

Lymphoma: Although primarily associated with the lymphatic system, lymphoma can occasionally start in the kidneys.

Symptoms and Signs of Kidney Cancer

Early-Stage Symptoms

Kidney cancer often presents with minimal symptoms in its early stages, making it difficult to detect. However, as the tumor grows, individuals may experience:

Blood in the Urine (Hematuria): The presence of blood can range from faint pink streaks to more noticeable red patches.

Persistent Pain: A dull ache or sharp pain in the lower back or side.

Unexplained Weight Loss: Sudden, unintended weight reduction.

Fatigue: Persistent tiredness despite adequate rest. Fever: Intermittent fevers not linked to infection.

Advanced Symptoms

In more advanced stages, symptoms may include:

Lump or Mass: A palpable lump or mass in the abdomen or side.

Swelling: Swelling in the legs or ankles.

Night Sweats: Excessive sweating during the night.

Anemia: Unusually low levels of red blood cells.

Causes and Risk Factors

Genetic and Environmental Factors

The exact cause of kidney cancer is not always clear, but several risk factors have been identified:

Smoking: Increases the risk significantly.

Obesity: Excess weight has been linked to a higher incidence of kidney cancer.

High Blood Pressure (Hypertension): Chronic high blood pressure can contribute to kidney damage.

Family History: A family history of kidney cancer increases the risk.

Genetic Conditions: Conditions such as Von Hippel-Lindau disease and hereditary papillary renal cell carcinoma.

Occupational Exposure: Exposure to certain substances like asbestos and cadmium.

Diagnosing Kidney Cancer

Medical History and Physical Examination Diagnosis typically begins with a thorough medical history and physical examination. The doctor will inquire about symptoms, risk factors, and family history.

Diagnostic Tests

Urinalysis: Examines urine for blood or abnormal cells.

Blood Tests: Assess overall kidney function and look for markers indicating cancer.

Imaging Tests: Ultrasound, CT scans, and MRI can help visualize tumors and assess their spread.

Biopsy: A tissue sample may be taken for microscopic examination to confirm the presence of cancer cells.

Treatment Options

Surgical Treatments

Partial Nephrectomy: Removal of the tumor along with a small margin of healthy tissue, preserving most of the kidney.

Radical Nephrectomy: Complete removal of the affected kidney, sometimes including surrounding tissues and lymph nodes.

Non-Surgical Treatments

Radiofrequency Ablation: Uses high-energy radio waves to heat and destroy cancer cells. Cryotherapy: Freezes cancer cells to kill them.

Targeted Therapy: Drugs that target specific abnormalities in cancer cells.

Immunotherapy: Boosts the body's immune system to fight cancer.

Chemotherapy: Uses drugs to kill rapidly dividing cells, although less commonly used for kidney cancer.

Emerging Treatments

Clinical Trials: Participation in trials testing new treatments and drugs. Personalized Medicine: Tailors treatment based on genetic makeup of the cancer.

Living with Kidney Cancer

Monitoring and Follow-up

Regular follow-up appointments are critical for monitoring recovery and detecting any recurrence. Follow-up tests may include imaging, blood tests, and physical examinations.

Lifestyle Changes: Adopting a healthy lifestyle can support treatment and improve quality of life. Recommendations include:

Healthy Diet: Emphasize fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, and whole grains.

Regular Exercise: Engage in physical activity to boost overall health.

Quit Smoking: Eliminating tobacco use can improve outcomes. Stress Management: Techniques like meditation, yoga, and counseling.


Kidney cancer is a serious condition, but advances in medical science have significantly improved the outlook for many patients. Early detection, comprehensive treatment, and lifestyle adjustments are key to managing this disease effectively. For the comprehensive kidney cancer treatment in India, American Oncology Institute is recognized as the top multi-disciplinary oncology hospital known for its expertise and advanced care.