Kidney Cancer: Causes and Treatment

Written by Dr. Arshad Hussain Shah and medically reviewed by iCliniq medical review team.

Image: Kidney Cancer: Causes and Treatment

Kidneys are vital organs of the body that are located just below the rib cage. They are bean-shaped, each about the size of the fist. Kidneys remove the waste products and excess fluid from the body. They also regulate salt, potassium, and acid contents of the body. Kidneys also release hormones that regulate blood pressure.

Kidney cancer or renal cell cancer is a disease in which cancer cells form in the kidneys, beginning with the tubules of the kidneys.


Kidney cancer can present with following symptoms and signs:

  1. Blood in the urine.
  2. A lump in the abdomen, usually associated with pain.
  3. Anemia.
  4. Weight loss.
  5. Poor appetite.


The causes and risk factors that can cause kidney cancer are:

  1. Environmental and industrial toxins.
  2. Faulty genes and inherited conditions such as Von-Hippel Lindau disease and hereditary papillary renal cell cancer.
  3. Obesity.
  4. Smoking.
  5. Chronic kidney disease.
  6. Polycystic kidneys.

How to Diagnose Kidney Cancer

Patient has to undergo series of investigations to confirm the diagnosis and to stage the disease including C.T. scan, ultrasound abdomen, urine tests, and blood tests.


All the malignant kidney tumors need surgical resection (removal) if they are localized and not metastatic (has not spread to other parts). Surgical removal of the tumor is considered the gold standard treatment.

The doctor may perform one of the following procedures depending on the extent of spread.

  1. Radical Nephrectomy: In this surgery, the kidney, nearby adrenal gland, and lymph nodes are removed.
  2. Simple Nephrectomy: Surgical removal of the kidney alone.
  3. Partial Nephrectomy: Surgical removal of tumor alone, and a portion of the kidney. Rest of the kidney is spared.

If surgery will not help, the doctor may suggest one of the following.

  • Arterial embolization.
  • Cryotherapy.
  • Radioablation.

If the kidney tumor is metastatic (has spread to other parts of the body), then the patient would need target/immunotherapy depending upon the pathological type of tumor, genetic, and many other factors.

These target agents have revolutionized the treatment of kidney cancer. They have shown good efficacy and tolerance compared to the previously used treatment. They were first approved a decade ago.

These drugs include:

  1. Sunitinib.
  2. Sorafenib.
  3. Axitinib.
  4. Pazopanib.
  5. Bevacizumab.

Now, most recently few more drugs namely Cabozantinib, Lenvatinib, and immune checkpoint inhibitor Nivolumab have been approved and have much more efficacy.

Kidney cancer clinical trials continue and new immunological and target agents are on the horizon.

For more information consult a kidney cancer specialist online -->

Last reviewed at: 07.Sep.2018



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