Kidney Cancer

The kidneys are a pair of bean-shaped organs approximately the size of your fist. These organs are located behind the abdominal organs, toward your back. Each kidney is located on either side of your spine.

Kidney cancer is among the 10 most common types of cancer in men and women. The American Cancer Society estimates that nearly 64,000 new cases of kidney cancer will be diagnosed and more than 14,000 patients will die from kidney cancer each year. Most patients with kidney cancer are older, with an average age of diagnosis being 64 years of age.

The rate of new kidney cancers has been rising over the past 20 years. Some researchers believe this is because more people have abdominal imaging, tests that can detect kidney cancer in its earliest stages.

The most common type of kidney cancer in adults is renal cell carcinoma. This accounts for more than 90 percent of cancerous tumors of the kidney. There are different subtypes of renal cell carcinoma. Clear cell carcinoma is the most common subtype.

Treatment

Your doctor will create a treatment plan that is right for you. The stage of your cancer, your health and overall wellbeing will shape your treatment.

Stage 1 to 3 cancers are usually treated and managed with surgery. Your doctor will discuss the stage of your cancer. Stage 1 and 2 cancers have not spread outside the kidneys. Stage 3 cancers have grown to nearby veins or spread to lymph nodes.

Surgery options include partial nephrectomy or a radical nephrectomy. A partial nephrectomy removes part of the kidney - usually the area with cancer and a certain area around cancer cells. A radical nephrectomy removes the entire kidney. You may also need to have your lymph nodes removed if cancer has spread outside the kidney.

Observation is recommended after surgery for stage 1 to 3 cancers. Your doctor will watch you closely with regular exams and, when necessary, imaging tests to see if cancer has returned. 

If surgery is not an option or necessary for early stage kidney cancer, your treatment plan may include:

  • Surveillance with imaging
  • Local ablation techniques, such as microwave, radiofrequency ablation or cyroablation

Advanced kidney cancer (stage 4), unfortunately, cannot be cured by surgery alone. This stage means that cancer has spread to distant parts of the body including the liver, lung, lymph nodes, bone or other sites. Stage 4 cancer often requires systemic treatments in addition to surgery.

These treatments may include chemotherapy, immunotherapy or hormone therapy. Depending on what is right for you, these medicines can be given orally or intravenously. Because advanced kidney is very hard to cure, clinical trials are also an option.

Care Team

You may see one or more of the following specialists for your cancer treatment.

Joseph Drabick, MD Joseph Drabick, MD Medical Oncologist View Researcher Profile
Sheldon Holder, PhD, MD Sheldon Holder, PhD, MD Medical Oncologist View Researcher Profile
Monika Joshi, MD, MRCP Monika Joshi, MD, MRCP Medical Oncologist View Researcher Profile
Matthew G. Kaag, MD Matthew G. Kaag, MD Surgeon View Researcher Profile
Heath Mackley, MD Heath Mackley, MD Radiation Oncologist View Researcher Profile
Suzanne Merrill, MD Suzanne Merrill, MD Surgeon View Researcher Profile
Jay Raman, MD Jay Raman, MD Surgeon View Researcher Profile
Marc Rovito, MD Marc Rovito, MD Hematology/Oncologist View Researcher Profile
Nabeel Sarwani, MD Nabeel Sarwani, MD Radiologist View Researcher Profile
Leonard Tuanquin, MD Leonard Tuanquin, MD Radiation Oncologist View Researcher Profile
Nicholas Zaorsky, MD Nicholas Zaorsky, MD Radiation Oncologist View Researcher Profile

Locations

Penn State Health Medical Group - Nyes Road Specialties

Penn State Health Medical Group - Nyes Road Specialties

121 N Nyes Rd
Suite C
Harrisburg, PA 17112

Phone: 717-657-4045
Penn State Health Surgery Specialties

Penn State Health Surgery Specialties

200 Campus
Suite 3100
Hershey, PA 17033

Phone: 717-531-8887

Clinical Trials

Single Arm Phase Ib/II Study of Durvalumab and Guadecitabine in Advanced Kidney Cancer: Big Ten Cancer Research Consortium(BTCRC-GU16-043) (PSCI 18-008)

Groups, Classes and Support

Support groups offer an opportunity to connect with other patients, caregivers and families. Learn more about support groups offered at Penn State Cancer Institute.

Prevention and Screening

Like most cancers, kidney cancer cannot be prevented. There are currently no screening guidelines for kidney cancer. In most cases, the actual cause of kidney cancer is not known.

There are some factors that may put you at risk of developing kidney cancer. Those include:

  • Smoking
  • Obesity
  • High blood pressure
  • Exposure to cadmium, some herbicides or organic solvents 
  • Family history of kidney cancer
  • Gender (Men are twice as likely to develop kidney cancer compared to women.)

Symptoms and Diagnosis

Kidney cancer is among the 10 most common types of cancer in men and women.

Symptoms

Early stage kidney cancer does not usually cause any signs. Larger, locally advanced or cancers that have spread may show some symptoms, including:
  • Blood in the urine
  • Lower back pain on one side
  • A mass on the side or lower back
  • Fatigue
  • Loss of appetite
  • Weight loss

Diagnosis

If you experience these symptoms or have other concerns about your health, you should schedule an appointment to see your doctor. Your provider will ask your about your personal and family medical history and give you a complete physical exam.

If your doctor finds anything unusual, you will have a CT or MRI of your stomach. These imaging tests can help your doctor diagnose cancer, including its size, severity and if it has spread to other areas of your body.

Kidney Cancer

The kidneys are a pair of bean-shaped organs approximately the size of your fist. These organs are located behind the abdominal organs, toward your back. Each kidney is located on either side of your spine.

Kidney cancer is among the 10 most common types of cancer in men and women. The American Cancer Society estimates that nearly 64,000 new cases of kidney cancer will be diagnosed and more than 14,000 patients will die from kidney cancer each year. Most patients with kidney cancer are older, with an average age of diagnosis being 64 years of age.

The rate of new kidney cancers has been rising over the past 20 years. Some researchers believe this is because more people have abdominal imaging, tests that can detect kidney cancer in its earliest stages.

The most common type of kidney cancer in adults is renal cell carcinoma. This accounts for more than 90 percent of cancerous tumors of the kidney. There are different subtypes of renal cell carcinoma. Clear cell carcinoma is the most common subtype.

Your doctor will create a treatment plan that is right for you. The stage of your cancer, your health and overall wellbeing will shape your treatment.

Stage 1 to 3 cancers are usually treated and managed with surgery. Your doctor will discuss the stage of your cancer. Stage 1 and 2 cancers have not spread outside the kidneys. Stage 3 cancers have grown to nearby veins or spread to lymph nodes.

Surgery options include partial nephrectomy or a radical nephrectomy. A partial nephrectomy removes part of the kidney - usually the area with cancer and a certain area around cancer cells. A radical nephrectomy removes the entire kidney. You may also need to have your lymph nodes removed if cancer has spread outside the kidney.

Observation is recommended after surgery for stage 1 to 3 cancers. Your doctor will watch you closely with regular exams and, when necessary, imaging tests to see if cancer has returned. 

If surgery is not an option or necessary for early stage kidney cancer, your treatment plan may include:

  • Surveillance with imaging
  • Local ablation techniques, such as microwave, radiofrequency ablation or cyroablation

Advanced kidney cancer (stage 4), unfortunately, cannot be cured by surgery alone. This stage means that cancer has spread to distant parts of the body including the liver, lung, lymph nodes, bone or other sites. Stage 4 cancer often requires systemic treatments in addition to surgery.

These treatments may include chemotherapy, immunotherapy or hormone therapy. Depending on what is right for you, these medicines can be given orally or intravenously. Because advanced kidney is very hard to cure, clinical trials are also an option.

You may see one or more of the following specialists for your cancer treatment.

Joseph Drabick, MD Joseph Drabick, MD Medical Oncologist View Researcher Profile
Sheldon Holder, PhD, MD Sheldon Holder, PhD, MD Medical Oncologist View Researcher Profile
Monika Joshi, MD, MRCP Monika Joshi, MD, MRCP Medical Oncologist View Researcher Profile
Matthew G. Kaag, MD Matthew G. Kaag, MD Surgeon View Researcher Profile
Heath Mackley, MD Heath Mackley, MD Radiation Oncologist View Researcher Profile
Suzanne Merrill, MD Suzanne Merrill, MD Surgeon View Researcher Profile
Jay Raman, MD Jay Raman, MD Surgeon View Researcher Profile
Marc Rovito, MD Marc Rovito, MD Hematology/Oncologist View Researcher Profile
Nabeel Sarwani, MD Nabeel Sarwani, MD Radiologist View Researcher Profile
Leonard Tuanquin, MD Leonard Tuanquin, MD Radiation Oncologist View Researcher Profile
Nicholas Zaorsky, MD Nicholas Zaorsky, MD Radiation Oncologist View Researcher Profile
Penn State Health Medical Group - Nyes Road Specialties

Penn State Health Medical Group - Nyes Road Specialties

121 N Nyes Rd
Suite C
Harrisburg, PA 17112

Phone: 717-657-4045
Penn State Health Surgery Specialties

Penn State Health Surgery Specialties

200 Campus
Suite 3100
Hershey, PA 17033

Phone: 717-531-8887
Single Arm Phase Ib/II Study of Durvalumab and Guadecitabine in Advanced Kidney Cancer: Big Ten Cancer Research Consortium(BTCRC-GU16-043) (PSCI 18-008)
Support groups offer an opportunity to connect with other patients, caregivers and families. Learn more about support groups offered at Penn State Cancer Institute.

Like most cancers, kidney cancer cannot be prevented. There are currently no screening guidelines for kidney cancer. In most cases, the actual cause of kidney cancer is not known.

There are some factors that may put you at risk of developing kidney cancer. Those include:

  • Smoking
  • Obesity
  • High blood pressure
  • Exposure to cadmium, some herbicides or organic solvents 
  • Family history of kidney cancer
  • Gender (Men are twice as likely to develop kidney cancer compared to women.)
Kidney cancer is among the 10 most common types of cancer in men and women.

Symptoms

Early stage kidney cancer does not usually cause any signs. Larger, locally advanced or cancers that have spread may show some symptoms, including:
  • Blood in the urine
  • Lower back pain on one side
  • A mass on the side or lower back
  • Fatigue
  • Loss of appetite
  • Weight loss

Diagnosis

If you experience these symptoms or have other concerns about your health, you should schedule an appointment to see your doctor. Your provider will ask your about your personal and family medical history and give you a complete physical exam.

If your doctor finds anything unusual, you will have a CT or MRI of your stomach. These imaging tests can help your doctor diagnose cancer, including its size, severity and if it has spread to other areas of your body.