Kidney cancer is a cancer that starts in the cells of the kidney. The majority of kidney cancers are renal cell carcinoma (RCC), sometimes called renal adenocarcinoma. Approximately 20% of tumours found the kidney will be benign.
Most commonly the tumour will be confined to the kidney. In almost all cases, only a single kidney is affected.
Kidney cancer makes up about 2.5% of all cancers and is the 10th most common cancer in Australia. The risk of kidney cancer increases with age, most commonly occurring in people over the age of 40 years. Men are almost twice as likely to be diagnosed with kidney cancer as women are.
There are several types of renal cell carcinoma, based on the way the cells look under the microscope. The most common RCC is clear cell carcinoma.
The are no known causes of kidney cancer however several factors may increase the risk of a person developing kidney cancer:
• Family history – People who have family members with kidney cancer, especially a sibling, are at increased risk.
• Inherited conditions – About 3–5% of kidney cancers occur in people with particular inherited syndromes, including von Hippel-Lindau disease, hereditary papillary RCC and Birt-Hogg-Dubé syndrome.
Kidney cancer is generally treated by surgery to remove either the complete kidney (radical nephrectomy) or surgery to remove the tumour with a small cuff of healthy kidney (partial nephrectomy)
The surgery can generally be performed using minimally invasive techniques ( laparoscopic or robotics) ,although on occasion open surgery is necessary.
Small tumour in an older patient are often slow growing and on occasion are simply monitored rather than actively treated.
Although the majority of patients with a kidney cancer are cured by surgery, sometimes the tumour will already have spread and other treatment ( a type of chemotherapy) will be necessary.