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Kidney cancer (renal cancer)

Matepukupuku tākihi

The position of the kidneys, renal artery and vein, ureters, bladder, and urethraYour kidneys are two bean-shaped organs about the size of your fist. Most people have two kidneys, and they sit just below your rib cage, one on each side of your spine.

Kidney cancer (also called renal cancer) happens when the cells in the kidney become abnormal and grow into a tumour. It's most common in people over 60.

Your kidneys have different types of cells, and the type of cancer depends on the type of cell the cancer starts in. There are several types of kidney cancer. This Cancer Research UK article talks about the most common types of kidney cancer.

Symptoms of kidney cancer

Kidney cancer often has no symptoms.

If you do have symptoms, they can include feeling unwell, being tired, losing your appetite, having a fever and sweating heavily – especially at night.

You should always see your general practice team if you have blood in your urine (called haematuria), pain in your side or lower back or a lump or swelling in the area of your kidneys.

Causes of kidney cancer

We do not know what causes most kidney cancer. But there are a few things that may increase your risk, such as getting older, smoking, high blood pressure and being overweight. Men are more likely to get kidney cancer than women. A family history of kidney cancer and some rare genetic disorders also increase the risk.

Reducing your risk of kidney cancer

Maintaining a healthy weight, not smoking and having good blood pressure can help reduce your risk of getting kidney cancer.

Diagnosing kidney cancer

There is no screening programme for kidney cancer. If your general practice team suspects you may have kidney cancer, they will examine you for any lumps or swellings and ask you questions about your general health.

They may arrange a blood test to measure how well your kidneys are working and a urine test to check for an infection or any blood in your urine. You may also have an ultrasound or CT scan of your kidneys.

Sometimes urine tests or scans done for something else pick up kidney cancer.

Treating kidney cancer

Kidney cancer can often be cured if caught early. The treatment for kidney cancer ranges from monitoring small cancers that are unlikely to cause any problems, to surgery and immunotherapy.

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Written by HealthInfo clinical advisers. Last reviewed April 2023.


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