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Kidney Cancer

Kidney cancer is typically a single tumor that develops in one kidney; however, it can sometimes affect both kidneys. Surgery to remove part or all of your kidney is typically the first treatment for kidney cancer.

Kidney cancer: what you should know

  • Renal cell carcinoma is the most common type of kidney cancer in adults.
  • You have an increased risk of developing kidney cancer if you:
    • Are obese
    • Have high blood pressure (hypertension)
    • Smoke
    • Have a genetic condition, such as von Hippel-Lindau disease or heredity papillary renal cell carcinoma
  • Your kidneys help regulate your blood pressure. One of the most serious side effects of kidney cancer and its treatment is high blood pressure (hypertension).
  • If only one kidney is affected, surgery to remove the kidney often eliminates the cancer. You can live a full, healthy life with one working kidney.
  • If both kidneys are affected and not working properly, you will need dialysis or a kidney transplant.

Symptoms of kidney cancer

Talk to your doctor if you have any of these kidney cancer symptoms:

  • Blood in urine (hematuria)
  • Loss of appetite
  • Lump in your abdomen
  • Pain in your side that does not go away
  • Weight loss, for no known reason

Having these symptoms does not necessarily mean you have kidney cancer. Other conditions have similar symptoms. Your doctor at Rush can help you determine the root of your problem.

Care for kidney cancer at Rush

Your kidney cancer treatment depends on the stage of the cancer, the size of the tumor and your overall health. Some possible treatment options include the following:

  • Minimally invasive and robotic surgery to remove part or all of the affected kidney is typically the first treatment.
    • Partial nephrectomy: A minimally invasive kidney-sparing surgery that removes the diseased part of the kidney, while maintaining healthy kidney tissue.
    • Simple nephrectomy: Removes the kidney only.
    • Radical nephrectomy: Removes the kidney, adrenal gland, surrounding tissue and nearby lymph nodes.
  • Arterial embolization, including cryoablation and radiofrequency ablation, help shrink the tumor and stop its growth when surgery is not an option.
  • Radiation therapy — including TomoTherapy, image-guided radiation therapy (IGRT), intensity modulated radiation therapy (IMRT) and brachytherapy — destroys remaining cancer cells after surgery.
  • Targeted therapy stabilizes the tumor and stops it from growing. It does not eliminate the tumor, but it allows you to have a good quality of life for a long time, despite the cancer.
  • Biologic therapy uses your own immune system to stop the growth of metastatic cancer that has spread to other organs. This allows you to live a longer life with cancer.
  • NanoKnife, offered by interventional radiologists at Rush, uses bursts of electricity to create microscopic holes in cancer cells to kill them.
  • Follow-up tests allow your doctor to monitor you and make treatment adjustments during and after your care.

Why choose Rush for kidney cancer care

  • Genitourinary cancer specialists at Rush offer compassionate, individualized care for kidney cancer.
  • The Rush University Cancer Center has received outstanding achievement awards from the Commission on Cancer of the American College of Surgeons. The awards recognize programs that excel in providing quality cancer care.
  • Rush is among only a few Chicago-area hospitals using NanoKnife to attack hard-to-reach tumors.
  • Urologists at Rush offer comprehensive care for kidney cancer and specialize in minimally invasive procedures to treat kidney cancer. The urology program at Rush is consistently ranked as one of the best in the country by U.S. News and World Report.
  • At Rush, you have access to the Cancer Integrative Medicine Program, which offers complementary therapies, such as acupuncture, massage and yoga to help ease the mental and physical stress that accompanies kidney cancer treatment.

Departments and programs that treat this condition