Renal cell carcinoma affects about 3 in 10,000 people, resulting in about 31,000 new cases in the US per year.
Every year, about 12,000 people in the US die from renal cell carcinoma. It is more common in men than women, usually affecting men older than 55.
Why the cells become cancerous is not known. A history of smoking greatly increases the risk for developing renal cell carcinoma.
Some people may also have inherited an increased risk to develop renal cell carcinoma, and a family history of kidney cancer increases the risk.
People with von Hippel-Lindau disease, a hereditary disease that affects the capillaries of the brain, commonly also develop renal cell carcinoma.
Kidney disorders that require dialysis for treatment also increase the risk for developing renal cell carcinoma.
The first symptom is usually blood in the urine. Sometimes both kidneys are involved. The cancer metastasizes (spreads) easily, most often to the lungs and other organs, and about one-third of patients have metastasis at the time of diagnosis.
Additional symptoms that may be associated with this disease:
Palpation of the abdomen may show a mass or organ enlargement, particularly of the kidney or liver. There may be a testicular varicocele.
Because metastasis is common, the following tests to look for metastasis may be performed:
Surgical removal of all or part of the kidney (nephrectomy) is recommended. This may include removal of the bladder or surrounding tissues or lymph nodes.
Radiation therapy is not commonly used for treatment of renal cell carcinoma because it is usually not successful. Hormone treatments may reduce the growth of the tumor in some cases.
Medications such as alpha-interferon and interleukin have been successful in reducing the growth of some renal cell carcinomas, including some with metastasis. Chemotherapy may be used in some cases, but cure is unlikely unless all the cancer can be removed with surgery.
The stress of illness can often be helped by joining a support group where members share common experiences and problems. See cancer - support group and kidney disease - support group.
The outcome varies depending on the amount of metastasis. The 5-year survival rate is around 60% to 75% if the tumor is in the early stages and has not spread outside the kidney. If it has metastasized to the lymph nodes, the 5-year survival is around 5% to 15%. If it has spread to other organs, the 5-year survival at less than 5%.
Call your health care provider any time blood in the urine develops. Also call if any other symptoms of this disorder occur.
Minimize or stop smoking. Follow your health care provider's recommendations in the treatment of kidney disorders, especially those that may require dialysis.