Understanding the Stages of Kidney Cancer

May 7th 2016

Stage I

Stage I kidney cancer denotes a tumor that is 7 centimeters across or smaller and remains isolated to one kidney. Cancer has not spread to the lymph nodes or other parts of the body at this stage. Surgeons can often remove the entire tumor successfully during, and more therapy may not be needed. The five-year survival rate of stage I kidney cancer is 81 percent as of data compiled in 2014.

Stage II

In stage II, the tumor grows to larger than 7 centimeters but remains in just one organ. The five-year survival rate remains high at this stage, as 74 percent of people diagnosed with stage II kidney cancer live for more than five years after the diagnosis.

Stage III

Stage III kidney cancer marks two possible scenarios. The tumor grows into a major vein or into tissue surrounding the kidney, but cancer has not spread to the adrenal gland, lymph nodes or other organs. The other scenario involves a main tumor that could be outside the kidney, and some cancer cells spread to nearby lymph nodes but not to distant parts of the body. Doctors treat this stage of kidney cancer aggressively, and 53 percent of patients live an additional five years or more.

Stage IV

Stage IV kidney cancer notes the tumor growing into the adrenal gland on top of the kidney, while cancer cells may possibly move into nearby lymph nodes, distant lymph nodes or other parts of the body. Another scenario for stage IV kidney cancer includes a main tumor of any size that could grow outside the organ, and cancer cells move into other organs and distant lymph nodes. The five-year survival rate for stage IV kidney cancer is 8 percent.


Doctors and oncologists stage kidney cancer based on results of physical exams, biopsies and various imaging tests. The clinical stage begins when a doctor attempts to assess the extent of kidney cancer before any surgical procedures, while the pathological stage gives doctors a better prognosis based on biopsies or tissue removal after surgery. A patient's cancer stage may change after surgery. Read on to find out more information regarding the four stages of kidney cancer and the life expectancy of each stage.

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