Kidney cancer, also known as renal cell carcinoma, is a type of cancer that begins in the kidneys. The kidneys are two bean-shaped organs located in the lower back that filter waste from the blood and produce urine. While kidney cancer is relatively rare, it is important to be aware of potential risk factors and symptoms. Speak with your primary care provider if you have any questions or concerns.
What causes kidney cancer?
While the exact cause of kidney cancer is unknown, several risk factors can increase the likelihood of developing the disease. These risk factors include:
Some steps you can take to lower your risk of developing kidney cancer include drinking plenty of water and cutting back on salt.
Kidney cancer symptoms
In its early stages, kidney cancer often does not cause any symptoms. As the cancer grows, however, it can produce a range of symptoms, including:
- Blood in the urine
- Pain in the back or side that does not go away
- Weight loss
- Loss of appetite
- Swelling in the legs or ankles
Diagnosing kidney cancer
While there is no routine screening test for kidney cancer, some people who are at high risk of developing the disease may benefit from regular monitoring. Screening options may include:
Kidney cancer treatment
The most common treatment for kidney cancer is surgery to remove the affected kidney or part of the kidney. In some cases, other treatments may be used, including:
- Radiation therapy
- Targeted therapy
An oncologist may use a combination of treatments to care for kidney cancer.
The multidisciplinary team at St. Luke’s Health—consisting of oncologists, primary care providers, radiologists, and other specialists—works with patients to recommend a treatment plan customized to their specific situation. Talk to your primary care provider for more information.