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Renal Cell Carcinoma (Kidney Cancer) Information

  • Renal cell carcinoma, also known by a gurnistical tumor, is the most common form of kidney cancer arising from the renal tubule. It is the most common type of kidney cancer in adults. Initial therapy is with surgery. It is notoriously resistant to radiation therapy and chemotherapy, although some cases respond to immunotherapy...
  • The classic triad is hematuria (blood in the urine), flank pain and an abdominal mass. This "classic triad" is infrequently present when the patient first presents for medical attention.

    Other signs may include: Abnormal urine color (dark, rusty, or brown) due to blood in the urine; weight loss of more than 5% of body weight with emaciated, thin, malnourished appearance; more and more frequently, renal cell carcinoma is identified as an incidental finding on a medical imaging study of the abdomen (e.g. computed tomography a.k.a. CT) done for an unrelated purpose; the presenting symptom may be due to metastatic disease, such as a pathologic fracture of the hip due to a metastasis to the bone; enlargement of one testicle (usually the left, due to blockage of the left gonadal vein by tumor invasion of the left renal vein -- the right gonadal vein drains directly into the inferior vena cava); paraneoplastic phenomena (not directly due to the mass, but due to secreted substances with hormonal activity, including vision abnormalities, pallor or plethora, excessive hair growth (females), constipation, cold intolerance, high blood pressure).

    Renal cell carcinoma affects about three in 10,000 people, resulting in about 31,000 new cases in the US per year. Every year, about 12,000 people in the US die from renal cell carcinoma. It is more common in men than women, usually affecting men older than 55.

    Why the cells become cancerous is not known. A history of smoking greatly increases the risk for developing renal cell carcinoma. Some people may also have inherited an increased risk to develop renal cell carcinoma, and a family history of kidney cancer increases the risk.

    People with von Hippel-Lindau disease, a hereditary disease that also affects the capillaries of the brain, commonly also develop renal cell carcinoma. Kidney disorders that require dialysis for treatment also increase the risk for developing renal cell carcinoma.

    If it is only in the kidneys, which is about 40% of cases, it can be cured roughly 90% of the time with surgery. If it has spread outside of the kidneys, often into the lymph nodes or the main vein of the kidney, then it must be treated with chemotherapy and other treatments.

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