A conversation about kidney cancer

kidney cancer and high blood pressureThe kidneys have an important job to do- they keep the blood clean and balanced by filtering, and then sending waste in the form of urine to the bladder. Shaped like a ‘kidney’ bean and about the size of your fist, kidneys are in the middle of the back, one on each side of your spine. Some people are at risk for developing kidney cancer.

Am I at risk? Should I be screened?

While we don’t always know what causes cancer, some kidney cancer risk factors have been identified. Some of these risk factors include:

  • cigarette smoking
  • high blood pressure
  • strong family history of kidney cancer
  • certain hereditary conditions like Von Hippel-Lindau Disease and Birt-Hogg-Dube syndrome

People at high risk for kidney cancer should talk to a doctor about being tested to find kidney cancer early. There are not any recommended screening tests for kidney cancer in people who are not at increased risk.

The doctor says it may be kidney cancer — what can I expect?

Some people with kidney cancer don’t have symptoms or any known risk factors, and often kidney tumors are found accidentally when a test (like a CT scan or MRI) is done for another reason. This can catch people by surprise- especially if they don’t feel sick.

The doctor may use different ways to find kidney cancer, depending on symptoms (if any) you are having. You can expect your doctor to do a full physical exam and complete health history, and then decide what other tests may be needed.

Common treatment choices for those with kidney cancer:

  • surgery
  • radiation therapy
  • chemotherapy
  • targeted therapy
  • biologic therapy.

The right treatment depends on several factors things including the size of the tumor, whether the tumor has grown outside the area of the kidney, and the person’s age and overall health.

The good news is the survival rate for patients with early stage kidney cancer ranges from 74% to 100%. When diagnosed and treated at an early stage, kidney cancer can be cured.

Information about cancer can be confusing and overwhelming, especially if the information uses lots of complicated medical terms. Be sure to ask your healthcare provider any questions about what you read so you can understand how it applies to your situation.

Take the next step:

  • Read this kidney cancer guide (PDF) from the U-M Comprehensive Cancer Center.
  • Find out more about kidney cancer from the American Urological Association.
  • Learn more from the National Cancer Institute and the Kidney Cancer Association.
  • Still have questions? Call the nurses at the University of Michigan Cancer AnswerLine™. They can help patients or their loved ones find a clinical trial or provide insights into the newest and latest cancer treatments. Feel free to call at 1-800-865-1125 or send an e-mail.

    SusanDaron no captionThe Cancer AnswerLine™ nurses are experienced in oncology care, including helping patients and their families who have questions about cancer. These registered oncology nurses are available by calling 800-865-1125 Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. – 5 p.m. Your call is always free and confidential.



Cancer-center-informal-vertical-sig-150x150The University of Michigan Comprehensive Cancer Center’s 1,000 doctors, nurses, care givers and researchers are united by one thought: to deliver the highest quality, compassionate care while working to conquer cancer through innovation and collaboration. The center is among the top-ranked national cancer programs, and #1 in Michigan according to U.S. News & World Report. Our multidisciplinary clinics offer one-stop access to teams of specialists for personalized treatment plans, part of the ideal patient care experience. Patients also benefit through access to promising new cancer therapies.