Overview

of Renal Cell Cancer

In the United States, kidney cancer accounts for about 4% of all cancers. Kidney cancer occurs slightly more often in males and is usually diagnosed between the ages of 50 and 70 but can occur at any age. In adults, the most common type of kidney cancer is renal cell cancer.1

The kidneys are organs that are responsible for eliminating waste material from the blood by making urine. The kidneys also produce hormones, which regulate blood pressure and control red blood cell production. Most people have two kidneys Located just above the kidneys are the adrenal glands, which produce several essential hormones. Adrenal hormones help to regulate metabolism, blood pressure, inflammation, and response to stress. The adrenal glands also produce small amounts of sex hormones (androgens and estrogens).

Tiny tubules in the kidneys filter and clean the blood and take out waste products and make urine. Urine passes from each kidney through a long tube called a ureter into the bladder, which holds the urine until it passes through the urethra and leaves the body.

Renal cell cancer is a disease in which cancer cells develop in the cells lining the small tubules in the kidney. Cancer that starts in the ureters is different from renal cell cancer and is discussed in transitional cell cancer of the bladder.

The body can function perfectly well with one kidney and one adrenal gland if they are normal. This allows for the removal of one entire kidney and adrenal gland when necessary to remove a cancer localized to the kidney area.1,2

Next: Symptoms & Signs of Renal cell cancer

References


1 American Cancer Society: Cancer Facts and Figures 2017. Atlanta, Ga: American Cancer Society, 2017.

2 Sene AP, Hunt L, McMahon RF, et al.: Renal carcinoma in patients undergoing nephrectomy: analysis of survival and prognostic factors. Br J Urol 70 (2): 125-34, 1992.