Kidney cancer

Synonyms: Renal cancer

Medical Specialties: Family practice, Internal medicine, Oncology

Clinical Definition

Kidney cancer, or renal cancer, is rarely accompanied by symptoms in the very early stages. As it progresses, various symptoms may appear, including fatigue, unexplained weight loss, blood in the urine and persistent pain in the back, just below the ribs. Treatment options include nephrectomy (i.e., kidney removal, total or partial), radiation, chemotherapy, hormone therapy and immunotherapy.

In Our Own Words

Cancer of the kidney is also known as renal cancer. The most common type is renal cell carcinoma (RCC), which usually grows as a single mass or tumor within the kidney. Other types include transitional cell cancers and very rarely, renal sarcomas. Wilms’ tumor is another rare kidney cancer that affects young children and infants, usually appearing in the first few years of life.

Smokers are at higher risk of kidney cancers. Other risk factors include high blood pressure (hypertension), a high-fat diet and overweight/obesity. Blood in the urine is the most common kidney cancer symptom.


Treatments include surgery, either partial or total removal of the kidney, sometimes done via a tube known as a laparoscope. Newer treatments include include freezing the tumor or heating it (i.e., radiofrequency tumor ablation or RFA).

Relevant Conditions
Common Types
  • Renal cell carcinoma
  • Transitional cell carcinoma
  • Wilms’ tumor
Side Effects
  • Persistent pain in the side of the abdomen or back
  • Fatigue
  • Unintended weight loss
  • Blood in the urine
Share this article
  • The Cleveland Clinic. "Kidney Cancer.” Accessed August 2013.
  • American Cancer Society. "What is kidney cancer?" Updated November 2012. Accessed August 2013.
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