December 01, 2017

Kidney cancer

New thinking, new options

Kidney cancer

The scan done to help evaluate the cause of your shortness of breath revealed healthy lungs. But the image also captured your kidneys — and there, the news wasn't so positive. Your doctor said a mass was spotted and that it will require treatment.

A solid tumor in the kidney can represent a noncancerous (benign) growth or cancer. Kidney cancer is one of the 10 most common cancers in the United States, with the average age of diagnosis being 64. Renal cell carcinoma, the most common form of — kidney cancer, accounts for about 90 percent of kidney cancers and is unlikely to cause signs or symptoms in its early stages. About half of all kidney cancers are discovered incidentally — meaning they're found during tests performed for another reason.

Early-stage kidney cancer is often removed with surgery. Advanced-stage cancers are a bit more complicated, but doctors are more optimistic than ever, as a host of new drug options have dramatically changed the landscape of care in the past decade. Still, diagnosis and treatment of kidney cancer has a number of quirks that make it different from other common cancers.

Kidney basics

Your kidneys have several functions including filtering your blood, removing waste, balancing fluid and minerals, and releasing hormones that regulate your bodily functions.

Renal cell carcinoma is typically a single tumor that develops in one kidney. Less commonly, two or more tumors might develop in one or both kidneys. There are other categories of kidney cancer. One example is transitional cell carcinoma that can affect urine tubes (ureters) and the central portion of the kidneys.

Despite the presence of a tumor, bodily...