Kidney cancer is one of the 10 most common cancers in both men and women. Overall, the lifetime risk for developing kidney cancer is about 1 in 63 (1.6 percent), with men at higher risk than women. The average age of a person diagnosed with kidney cancer is 64 and it is very uncommon in those younger than 45.

What you need to know about kidney cancer?

Kidney cancer occurs when cancer cells begin to develop in the kidneys and then spread to other parts of the body. The kidneys are a pair of bean-shaped organs about the size of a fist that are attached to the upper back wall of the abdomen and their main job is to filter the blood coming in from the renal arteries to remove excess water, salt and waste products.

There are four main types of kidney cancer:

  1. Renal cell carcinoma (RCC), which makes up about 90 percent of kidney cancers, usually grows as a single tumor within the kidney. The main types of RCC include clear cell renal cell carcinoma, papillary renal cell carcinoma and chromophobe renal cell carcinoma.
  2. Transitional cell carcinoma (TCC) accounts for five to 10 percent of kidney cancers diagnosed. This type of kidney cancer starts in the lining of the renal pelvis and sometimes can be confused with bladder cancer or have similar symptoms as renal cell carcinomas.
  3. Renal sarcoma is a rare form of kidney cancer that begins in the blood vessels or connective tissues of the kidney and makes up less than one percent of all diagnosed kidney cancers.
  4. Wilms tumor is most common in children and usually only affects one kidney. About 90 percent of childhood kidney cancer cases are this type of tumor.

Certain risk factors such as smoking, obesity, overuse of certain pain medications, exposure to asbestos and aniline, certain tanning products and exposure to certain toxins may predispose you to develop kidney cancer.

Other risk factors include having a family history of certain hereditary forms of kidney cancer, dialysis treatment, chronic renal stones, tuberous sclerosis and Von Hippel Lindau syndrome, a rare genetic disorder.

Symptoms of kidney cancer

While diagnostic tests can detect signs of kidney cancer, there are also symptoms that the disease can cause. Contact your doctor if you experience any of the following:

  • Blood in the urine
  • Lower back pain or new pain elsewhere
  • Shortness of breath or a cough
  • A lump in the abdomen
  • Unplanned, significant weight loss
  • Fever
  • Swelling of ankles, legs and/or abdomen

If you are diagnosed, your doctor will recommend a method of treatment based on the stage and type of cancer. This can include surgery, radiation, targeted therapy, medication or immunotherapy, or sometimes a combination of these treatment types.