Kidney cancer

Kidney cancer

What is it

Renal cell cancer (adenocarcinoma) is a type of cancer that occurs in the kidneys when malignant or cancerous cells arise that originate in the renal cortex. It is the most common type of carcinoma of the kidney: there are approximately twelve new cases per year per 100,000 inhabitants.

According to the Spanish Society of Medical Oncology (SEOM), it is found in around 2-3 percent of malignant tumors in adults. It is more common after the age of 50 and there are twice as many cases in men as in women.


The direct causes of this type of cancer are unknown . But there are a number of risk factors that affect the propensity to suffer:

  • Tobacco : it is one of the most dangerous risk factors since it multiplies by two the possibilities of the appearance of this cancer.
  • Obesity : it is also a risk factor to be taken into account, it has been shown to be directly related to kidney carcinoma.
  • Diet rich in fats : this cause is closely related to the previous one, a diet rich in fats and with little presence of fruits and vegetables will favor the tumor.
  • Exposure to cadmium : there are studies that relate this material to kidney cancer. Working with paints, welding materials or batteries also increases the risk.
  • Renal diseases : patients who have reduced renal function due to chronic kidney disease or who have been receiving long-term dialysis are also more likely to suffer from it.
  • Genetic factors : some genetic diseases, such as Von Hippel-Lindau disease, genetic syndrome that alters blood vessels, or tuberous sclerosis, which involves the formation of abnormal masses in some cells of the body, may also predispose the patient to develop cancer of kidney.


The most common symptoms of kidney cancer are: the presence of blood in the urine(usually the most frequent), pain in the lower back and the appearance of a lump in the abdomen.

In addition to these three main symptoms may appear others, such as weight loss, lack of appetite, generalized fatigue, anemia  and fever .

Due to the proximity of the kidney to the adrenal gland , it can sometimes be accompanied by hormonal changes that cause hypertension , increased blood viscosity, enlarged breasts in the male or increased calcium in the blood.

Kidney cancer can metastasize to regional lymph nodes, lungs, liver, bones and brain.


In people with a family history of kidney tumors, experts recommend that they go for an abdominal ultrasound every 4 or 5 years after 40 years.

Other methods to prevent the onset of kidney cancer are: stop smoking , maintain a normal blood pressure and a healthy body weight thanks to a diet low in fat and high in fruits and vegetables.


  • Renal cell cancer : it is the most common cancer cells are formed in the tubules of the kidney.
  • Transitional cell cancer of the renal pelvis and ureter : when the malignant cells form in the renal pelvis and the ureter.
  • Wilms tumor: are formed in the kidneys of children and adolescents under 15 years. Within childhood kidney cancer is the majority.


According to the SEOM, a large part of the renal tumors (40 percent) that are diagnosed today are accidentally due to an ultrasound or abdominal CT performed for any other reason. The different procedures that are used to diagnose this disease are:

  • Interview and medical exploration.
  • Analysis of blood and urine : both are necessary to clarify certain symptoms such as anemia or any type of alteration in renal function.
  • Renal ultrasound : uses ultrasound to see the structure and abnormalities of the kidney and urinary tract.
  • Intravenous pyelogram ( IVP ): through radiographs with a urinary contrast, you can see if there are obstructions in the kidneys, ureters and bladder, due to the presence of a lump or tumor.
  • Computed tomography (CT): They are x-rays in sections to see all the structures of the abdomen. You can also do an MRI.
  • Biopsy : by removing tissue from the tumor you can determine if there are malignant cells. It serves to confirm the diagnosis and to adapt the treatment correctly to the pathology.



Among the surgical treatments we find:

  • Radical nephrectomy : a procedure in which the kidney is removed in its entirety, the surrounding tissue and some nearby lymph nodes.
  • Partial nephrectomy : the tumor and part of the surrounding tissue are removed, conserving healthy kidney tissue.


Radiation therapy is used to kill cancer cells by directing radiation to the localized area of ​​the tumor. In renal cancers it is often used as treatment of character palliative or as a treatment complementary to surgery Although it is not shown in clinical studies to helpeliminate resection margins.

Biological therapy

Immunotherapy is a type of therapy to stimulate the capacity of the immune system and thus fight cancer. It is achieved by the administration of classical cytokines (Interleukin 2 or Interferon a) and has demonstrated clinical efficacy .


The chemotherapy is a cancer treatment by drugs that interrupt the growth of cancer cells, eliminating or preventing their multiplication. The cancer of renal cells resistant to chemotherapy.

Targeted therapy against specific targets

Use different drugs and substances to identify and eliminate the cancer cells specific without damaging effects on normal cells .

The antiangiogenic therapy is aimed at cases of advanced cancer and acts on the critical receptors of the blood vessels that have developed in the tumor. This causes the tumor to stop nourishing itself and remits in its growth that it even decreases. Some of these drugs are: sunitinib, pazopanib, bevacizumab, sorafenib, axitinib and tivozanib

The surgery is the only treatment standard for localized tumors in which the possibility of curing the disease exceeds 50 percent of cases. The rest of treatments are considered palliative or experimental .

Other data


If detected quickly, according to the Spanish Association Against Cancer (AECC), the survival rate is almost 95 percent , when the tumor is still small. In addition, sometimes it is not necessary to completely remove the kidney and it is possible to better preserve the renal functions.

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