Kidney Cancer

Kidney cancer can begin in either the outer part of the kidney or its inner lining. The outer cortex of the kidney filters the blood and concentrates the excrement into urine. Kidney cancer that occurs in the outer portion of the kidney is known as renal cell carcinoma (RCC). Approximately 55,000 new cases of renal cell carcinoma incidence are documented each year and RCC incident rates are increasing.

Kidney cancer that starts in the inner lining of the kidney, which funnels and drains urine, is known as urothelial or transitional cell carcinoma. Urothelial carcinoma is very similar in many ways to most types of bladder cancer.

Treatment of both types of kidney cancer requires either partial or whole nephrectomy, or removal of the kidney. Urothelial carcinoma treatment also involves the surgical removal of a portion of the ureter.

Kidney Cancer Symptoms and Risk Factors

Common kidney cancer symptoms include unexplained weight loss, fever, blood in the urine, persistent side pain, a lump or mass in the side or abdomen, and fatigue.

Kidney cancer risk factors include smoking, obesity, high blood pressure, and long-term dialysis. Kidney cancer is most common in men over 40.

Kidney Cancer Diagnosis

If kidney cancer is suspected, the doctor may perform a physical exam, urine tests and blood tests. Presently, many kidney cancers are being discovered incidentally when a patient undergoes a CT scan of the abdomen for an unrelated reason.  In this circumstance, further imaging tests such as a CT scan or ultrasound may be performed as well. In some cases, a biopsy may be necessary to confirm a diagnosis of kidney cancer. In a biopsy, the doctor inserts a thin needle into the kidney and removes a small tissue sample for testing. Kidney cancer is treated with surgery, radiation therapy, immunotherapy, and, rarely, chemotherapy.

Learn more about Emory’s kidney cancer treatment options.

The Emory Department of Urology is affiliated with The Winship Cancer Institute of Emory University, Georgia's only National Cancer Institute-Designated Cancer Center and serves as the coordinating center for cancer research and care throughout the Emory University system. With NCI Designation Winship joins an elite group of 65 cancer centers in the United States to have earned this coveted status.