Kidney Cancer Treatment

What is Kidney Cancer?

Kidney Cancer Treatment CenterKidney cancer is cancer that originates in the kidneys. Your kidneys are two bean-shaped organs, each about the size of your fist. They’re located behind your abdominal organs, with one kidney on each side of your spine.

In adults, the most common type of kidney cancer is renal cell carcinoma. Other less common types of kidney cancer can occur. Young children are more likely to develop a kind of kidney cancer called Wilms’ tumor.


Kidney Cancer Types & Stages

Mat-Su Valley Cancer Center is a specialty healthcare facility dedicated entirely to the treatment of many kinds of cancer. Contact us at 907-707-1333.

Stages of Kidney Cancer

Your Palmer radiation oncologists will classify your tumor using a common “grading” system with the criteria TMN to help determine the stages of kidney cancer.

  1. Tumor – The larger the primary tumors, the more serious.
  2. Node – If the kidney cancer has spread to nearby lymph nodes, it is considered a later stage.
  3. Metastasis – Later stages mean the cancer has spread from the kidneys to other parts of the body.

Cancer specialists assign levels for each of the above factors and then combine these levels into stages,  according to the American Joint Committee on Cancer (AJCC), the stages include:

  • Stage I: The tumor is 7 cm or smaller and is only located in the kidney. It has not spread to the lymph nodes or distant organs.
  • Stage II: The tumor is larger than 7 cm and is only located in the kidney. It has not spread to the lymph nodes or distant organs.
  • Stage III: Either of these conditions:
    • A tumor of any size is located only in the kidney. It has spread to the regional lymph nodes but not to other parts of the body.
    • The tumor has grown into major veins or perinephric tissue and may or may not have spread to regional lymph nodes. It has not spread to other parts of the body.
  • Stage IV: Either of these conditions:
    • The tumor has spread to areas beyond Gerota’s fascia and extends into the adrenal gland on the same side of the body as the tumor, possibly to lymph nodes, but not to other parts of the body (T4; any N; M0).
    • The tumor has spread to any other organ, such as the lungs, bones, or the brain.

Kidney Tumor Types

Cancer treatment recommended by your Mat-Su Cancer Center experts will depend on several factors, including the type of cancer you are diagnosed with. There are several types of kidney cancers.

  • Renal cell carcinoma (RCC)

This is by far the most common type of kidney cancer accounting for 85 to 90 percent of kidney cancer cases. RCC usually forms as a single tumor in the tubules of the kidney. Occasionally, there is more than one tumor in both kidneys at the same time.

There are many subtypes of RCC that are named mostly by how the cancer cell looks under a microscope. These subtle varieties are sometimes treated differently and can sometimes help determine if your cancer might be genetic.

  • Clear cell renal cell carcinoma. This is the most common form of renal cell carcinoma. About 7 out of 10 people with RCC have this kind of cancer. When seen under a microscope, the cells that make up clear cell RCC look very pale or clear.
  • Papillary renal cell carcinoma. This is the second most common subtype – about 1 in 10 RCCs are of this type. These cancers form little finger-like projections (called papillae) in some, if not most, of the tumor. Some radiation oncologists call these cancers chromophilic because the cells take in certain dyes and look pink under the microscope.
  • Chromophobe renal cell carcinoma. This subtype accounts for about 5% (5 cases in 100) of RCCs. The cells of these cancers are also pale, like the clear cells, but are much larger and have certain other features that can be recognized.
  • Rare types of renal cell carcinoma. These subtypes are very rare, each making up less than 1% of RCCs:
    • Collecting duct RCC
    • Multilocular cystic RCC
    • Medullary carcinoma
    • Mucinous tubular and spindle cell carcinoma
    • Neuroblastoma-associated RCC
    • Unclassified renal cell carcinoma

Rarely, renal cell cancers are labeled as unclassified because the way they look doesn’t fit into any of the other categories or because there is more than one type of cell present.

  • Other types of kidney cancers

Other types of kidney cancers include transitional cell carcinomas, Wilms tumors, and renal sarcomas.

  • Transitional cell carcinoma. Of every 100 cancers in the kidney, about 5 to 10 are transitional cell carcinomas (TCCs), also known as urothelial carcinomas. Transitional cell carcinomas don’t start in the kidney itself, but in the lining of the renal pelvis (where the urine goes before it enters the ureter). This lining is made up of cells called transitional cells that look like the cells that line the ureters and bladder. Cancers that develop from these cells look like other urothelial carcinomas, such as bladder cancer, under the microscope. Like bladder cancer, these cancers are often linked to cigarette smoking and being exposed to certain cancer-causing chemicals in the workplace. About 9 out of 10 TCCs of the kidney are cured if they are found at an early stage. The chances for cure are lower if the tumor has grown into the ureter wall or main part of the kidney or if it looks more aggressive (high grade) when seen under a microscope.
  • Wilms tumor (nephroblastoma). Wilms tumors almost always occur in children. This type of cancer is very rare among adults. To learn more about this type of cancer, see Wilms Tumor.
  • Renal sarcoma. Renal sarcomas are a rare type of kidney cancer that begin in the blood vessels or connective tissue of the kidney. They make up less than 1% of all kidney cancers.
  • Benign (non-cancerous) kidney tumors

Some kidney tumors are benign (non-cancerous). This means they do not metastasize (spread) to other parts of the body, although they can still grow and cause problems. Benign kidney tumors can be treated by removing or destroying them, using many of the same treatments that are also used for kidney cancers. These types include: renal adenoma, oncocytoma, and angiomyolipoma.

General Treatment Information

Treatment options and recommendations depend on several factors, including the type and stage of cancer, possible side effects, and the patient’s preferences and overall health. Surgery is the primary treatment for most newly diagnosed cases of kidney cancer. In some cases, systemic and/or radiation therapy also is recommended.

The main treatments for stomach cancer are:

  • Surgery
  • Immunotherapy
  • Targeted therapy  
  • Radiation therapy
  • Chemotherapy

Often the best approach uses 2 or more of these treatment methods. Our team of expert oncologists also specialize in the following services:

Kidney Cancer: FAQs

The kidneys are two bean-­shaped organs. Each is about the size of a fist. You have one on either side of your spine in the middle­ to ­lower back. They have two main roles:

  • Filter waste from the blood and make urine
  • Make the hormone erythropoietin that controls the production of red blood cells in the bone marrow
  • Help regulate blood pressure

Most people are born with two kidneys, but you can survive with only one. You can also survive with no kidneys. People with no kidneys or kidneys that don’t work survive with the help of dialysis. Dialysis uses a special machine to filter the blood.

This is cancer that starts in the kidney. The most common type of kidney cancer is called renal cell carcinoma (RCC). The term renalis from the Latin word for kidney. About 90% of all kidney cancers are RCC. The other 10% are transitional cell carcinomas, Wilms tumors (in children), and other rare tumors.

Yes, there are many different types of RCC. A pathologist can name them under a microscope based on how they look. Here are some of the types:

  • Clear cell, the most common type of RCC
  • Papillary, the second most common type
  • Chromophobe
  • Collecting duct, which is very rare

More than 60,000 people in the United States are told they have kidney cancer each year. Men get kidney cancer more often than women. People who smoke are more likely to get kidney cancer than nonsmokers. Here are some other risk factors:

  • Having Von Hippel ­Lindau disease
  • Family history of kidney cancer
  • Obesity
  • Regular contact with chemicals, such as cadmium, benzene, or asbestos

However, many people with kidney cancer have no known risk factors.

In the early stages, kidney cancer often causes no symptoms. As the cancer grows, symptoms may develop. The most common symptoms in people with kidney cancer include:

  • Blood in the urine
  • Side or back pain
  • A mass or lump in the side or lower back
  • Ongoing tiredness
  • Appetite loss Fast weight loss
  • that happens without any effort to lose weight
  • Fever with no known cause
  • Leg or ankle swelling
  • High blood pressure

People with kidney cancer may have any combination of these symptoms.

There are various ways to find out if a person has kidney cancer. They include:

  • Medical history and physical exam – The health care provider asks about the person’s medical history. He or she also asks about the person’s family history of kidney cancer and other conditions that may be related to kidney cancer. The health care provider will also do an exam.
  • Urine test – For this test, a small amount of urine is collected in a container. It is then tested for blood, protein, bacteria, and cancer cells.
  • Blood tests – There is no blood test that can diagnose kidney cancer. But a complete blood count (CBC) and blood chemistry test can show signs in the blood that are linked with kidney cancer.
  • Imaging tests – These are tests used to take pictures of the inside of a person’s body. They include CT scan, ultrasound, Intravenous pyelogram (IVP), angiography, and other tests.
  • Biopsy – During a biopsy, the health care provider removes a small piece of the tumor. A pathologist then looks at this sample under a microscope. For kidney cancer, the type of biopsy used is called fine needle aspiration (FNA). But a biopsy is often not done. In most cases if a CT scan or an MRI shows possible kidney cancer, surgery is most often done to remove the tumor or the entire kidney. The pathologist then looks at the tissue taken during surgery to confirm the diagnosis.

Patients with kidney cancer may receive one or any combination of the following treatments:

  • Surgery – This is done to remove the tumor from the kidney. The whole kidney may be taken out, or only the part of the kidney with the tumor may be removed. Surgery is the standard treatment for cancer that is confined to the kidney and has not spread to other organs.
  • Targeted therapy – These medicines attack specific areas in the cancer cells or target the tumor’s blood supply. This is the most common treatment for more advanced kidney cancers.
  • Biological therapy – This is used to treat the cancer and reduce the chance that the cancer will spread to other parts of the body. This treatment uses medicines that may help stimulate the body’s immune system to fight cancer cells.
  • Radiation therapy – This is used to kill cancer cells using high energy X­-rays.
  • Chemotherapy – This is used to try to kill the cancer cells in the kidney and those that have spread to other organs.
  • Ablation therapy – There are two main types of ablation therapy used to treat kidney cancer. They’re both done by putting a needle into an area of cancer cells. Radiofrequency ablation (RFA) uses energy waves to kill cancer cells. Cryoablation uses extreme cold to kill cancer cells

Health care providers are always finding new ways to treat kidney cancer. New treatments are tested in clinical trials. Before beginning treatment, it’s a good idea to ask your healthcare provider if there are any clinical trials that may be helpful to you.

Many people with cancer get a second opinion from another healthcare provider before deciding on treatment. Here are some of the many reasons to get a second opinion:

  • You are not comfortable with the treatment decision.
  • You have a rare type of cancer.
  • There are different ways to treat the cancer.
  • You are not able to see a cancer expert.
  • Your health insurance requires a second opinion before treatment is started.

Here are ways to find someone to give a second opinion:

Ask the health care provider for the name of a specialist. Call the Cancer Information Service. The number is 800-­4­CANCER (800-­422-­6237). Callers can learn about centers and programs supported by the National Cancer Institute (NCI).

Call the Kidney Cancer Association. The number is 800­-850-­9132. Get the names of healthcare providers from a hospital, medical school or society, or cancer advocacy group. Ask people who have had kidney cancer for health care providers’ names.

After a kidney is removed, the remaining kidney takes over the work of both. Most people with only one kidney have no long ­term health problems. However, you should avoid anything that could harm the remaining kidney. It is very important to talk with your healthcare provider if you start taking new medicines or if you have a bladder infection or other problems that could affect your kidney. If the remaining kidney is damaged, you may need dialysis. With dialysis, a special machine does the kidneys’ job of filtering the blood.

Researchers are looking for ways to treat and cure kidney cancer in these ways:

  • Genetic therapy: Genetics is the study of genes, which are the “instructions” that direct our cells to make people what they are. Scientists are looking at several genes that may be related to the reason normal kidney cells change into cancerous cells. This may help them decide which treatments are better for certain types of RCC.
  • Biologic therapy: Biologic therapy includes new medicines that are being tested in clinical trials. Combining these medicines with other types of treatment is also being tested.
  • Chemotherapy: Chemotherapy is not very effective in fighting kidney cancer. But researchers are testing new types of medicines. They believe that understanding why kidney cancer cells are so resistant to chemotherapy will provide answers that can help make new and better chemotherapy and other treatment methods.

Clinical trials are studies of new kinds of cancer treatments. Health care providers do clinical trials to learn how well new treatments work and what their side effects are. New treatments may then be compared to the current treatment to see if they work better or have fewer side effects. People who take part in a clinical trial may benefit from access to new treatments before the FDA approves them. The trials also help increase our understanding of cancer and help people who have cancer in the future.

Call Mat-Su Valley Cancer Center For More Information

If all of these types and stages of kidney cancer are confusing to you, give the experts at Mat-Su Valley Cancer Center a call at 907-707-1333. We are here to explain the variety of treatment options available to you and make sure all of your questions are answered. For your convenience, we also have an online contact form that you may use to ask your questions or make your first appointment. Your first phone consultation is free, so don’t hesitate to give us a call today. You owe it to yourself to explore all treatment options available to you.

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