- Kidney cancer is the seventh most common cancer in Australian men and women
- The rate of survival after having kidney cancer for five years is 80%
- The rate of survival has improved by almost 30% over the last twenty-five years
Kidney cancer refers to cancer that develops within the kidney.
The kidney plays an important role in removing excess water, salt and waste products from the blood which then becomes urine, and helps control certain processes in the body such blood pressure.
Types of kidney cancer include:
Renal cell carcinoma
Renal cell carcinoma is a cancer that develops in the kidney’s filtration system (proximal renal tubules). This is the most common type of kidney cancer, accounting for 90% of all kidney cancer diagnoses.
Urothelial carcinoma is a cancer that develops in the transitional cells which line the renal pelvis (where the ureters meet the kidneys). This accounts for 5-10% of all kidney cancer cases and includes Hürthle cell carcinoma.
This is a rare cancer that develops in the kidneys from the abnormal growth of early kidney cells, most commonly in children.
Renal sarcoma is a rare cancer that develops in the connective tissue or blood vessels of the kidney. This accounts for less than 1% of all kidney cancer diagnoses.
As signs and symptoms for kidney cancer can be similar to other common conditions, it’s important to see your GP or healthcare professional if you experience any of the symptoms below. Discussing anything concerning with your doctor as soon as possible can help give you peace of mind and offer the best chance of successful treatment if you receive a kidney cancer diagnosis.
Kidney cancer can be difficult to detect as there are often no symptoms during the early stages. However, as the disease progresses, symptoms may include:
Blood in urine
Pain or discomfort in the lower back or side
Unexplained weight loss
A mass or lump in the abdomen
The TNM system is used to stage kidney cancer and helps doctors understand what your cancer looks like. TNM stands for:
- Tumour – The size of the tumour
- Node – If the cancer has involved any lymph nodes
- Metastasis – Whether the cancer has metastasised (spread) to other areas of the body
The TNM information, along with other tests, helps determine the stage of your breast cancer using the guidelines below:
The cancer is no larger than 7cm across and confined to the kidney.
The cancer is larger than 7cm across and confined to the kidney.
The cancer has grown into a major vein or surrounding tissue, but not the adrenal gland or beyond Gerota’s fascia. Alternatively, the tumour is any size and has spread the nearby lymph nodes but not beyond Gerota’s fascia.
The cancer has grown beyond Gerota’s fascia and may be growing into the adrenal gland. It may or may not have spread to nearby lymph nodes. Alternatively, the cancer has spread to distant lymph nodes and/or organs.
People who have a family history of kidney cancer or who have inherited certain types of genetic conditions may have a higher risk of developing kidney cancer. These syndromes include von Hippel-Lindau disease, Birt-Hogg-Dube syndrome, tuberous sclerosis complex, hereditary papillary renal cell carcinoma, hereditary leiomyoma renal cell carcinoma, hereditary renal oncocytoma and familial renal cancer (renal cancer which affects multiple generations of a family).
If you have a family history of kidney cancer or other cancers related to these genetic syndromes, we encourage you to speak with your doctor who may recommend genetic counselling and genetic testing.
In the majority of kidney cancer cases, the genetic changes that cause kidney cancer are acquired during a person’s lifetime, rather than inherited.
While the exact causes of kidney cancer are unknown, factors known to increase the risk of developing kidney cancer include:
- High blood pressure
- Being overweight or obese
- Receiving long-term treatment for chronic kidney failure
- Having a family history of kidney cancer
- Inherited conditions such as von Hippel-Lindau disease, Birt-Hogg-Dube syndrome, tuberous sclerosis complex, hereditary papillary renal cell carcinoma, hereditary leiomyoma renal cell carcinoma, hereditary renal oncocytoma or familial renal cancer
Kidney cancer is the seventh most common cancer in Australian men and women, and represents almost 3% of all new cancer diagnoses in Australia each year.
It affects both men and women, young and old, however is more common in people aged 70 to 74 years old.
There are a number of lifestyle-related factors you can consider to reduce your risk of developing cancer in general, like:
- Quitting smoking – It is estimated that up to a third of kidney cancers are caused by smoking
- Maintaining a healthy weight
- Controlling high blood pressure
- Getting regular exercise– Cancer Australia recommends at least 30 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise each day
- Reducing your alcohol intake – If you choose to drink, try to limit your alcohol intake to no more than two standard drinks a day
- Eating a healthy, balanced diet – Eat a fibre-rich diet from grain and legume sources, as well as enjoy a variety of fruit (2 serves) and vegetables (5 serves) per day, limit your intake of salt, saturated fats, and avoid all processed meat
Certain substances such as trichloroethylene can increase the risk of kidney cancer and avoiding exposure to these substances may assist with decreasing your risk of developing cancer.
Although there are no recommended screening programs for kidney cancer in Australia, there are many different tests that are used (alongside a physical examination) to help diagnose kidney cancer. This may include urine and blood tests and biopsy. Further tests may include CT scans, MRI, ultrasound, chest x-ray or radioisotope bone scans to detect if the cancer has spread.
Icon offers clinical trials across a wide range of cancer types and treatments. If you would like more information on participating in a clinical trial, please speak with your doctor who will be able to find a trial that might be right for you and your cancer.
- Australian Government -Cancer Australia. (2020). Kidney cancer in Australia statistics. Retrieved on 6 December 2021 from https://www.canceraustralia.gov.au/affected-cancer/cancer-types/kidney-cancer/kidney-cancer-australia-statistics
- Cancer Council. (2021). Kidney cancer. Retrieved on 6 December 2021 from https://www.cancer.org.au/cancer-information/types-of-cancer/kidney-cancer
- American Cancer Society. (2020). Kidney Cancer. Retrieved on 3 May 2021 from https://www.cancer.org/cancer/kidney-cancer.html
- Cancer Council Victoria. (2017). Kidney cancer. Retrieved on 3 May 2021 from https://www.cancervic.org.au/cancer-information/types-of-cancer/kidney_cancer/kidney-cancer-overview.html
- American Cancer Society. (2021). Kidney Cancer Stages. Retrieved on 6 December 2021 from https://www.cancer.org/cancer/kidney-cancer/detection-diagnosis-staging/staging.html
- Mayo Clinic. (2020). Kidney cancer. Retrieved on 3 May 2021 from https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/kidney-cancer/symptoms-causes/syc-20352664
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