Kidney cancer

There are two main sub-types of kidney cancer:

  • Renal cell carcinomas begin in the parenchyma of the kidney.
  • Urothelial carcinoma arises in the lining of the kidney and/or ureter.

Each sub-type has unique DNA changes and is treated with different surgical and biological therapies. Our research team has developed much of the basic science about the differences between sub-types.

Blood in the urine, pain in the flank or a mass felt on physical examination are typical indications a person may have cancer. However, far more common conditions, like urinary tract infections, kidney stones, kidney cysts, or other medical problems, can cause these symptoms as well. The majority of kidney cancers are now detected using ultrasound, CT or MRI scans performed for reasons that may or may not be related to kidney symptoms.

Treatment options

Surgery is the primary treatment, particularly for patients with localized disease. When possible, treatment with preservation of the functioning portion of the kidney is performed.

Multiple options for kidney-sparing surgery exist, including minimally invasive, as well as open, partial nephrectomy. Depending on the size and location of the tumor, percutaneous ablation is another possibility.

For larger tumors, removal of the entire kidney may be necessary. For advanced stage cancer, systemic drugs are used to treat cancer that has spread outside of the kidney or to prevent it from spreading.

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Ablation uses high-energy radio waves to heat the tumor and destroy cancer cells. This outpatient procedure is useful if you are too sick to have surgery.

Active monitoring
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Also called "watchful waiting," you can forego the side effects of treatment with careful monitoring of the stage of this cancer.

Biologic therapy
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This procedure uses your body's immune system to fight your cancer. This is done by either stimulating your immune system to attack cancer cells or by introducing agents it needs, like antibodies, to kill them.

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This well-known cancer treatment uses medicines taken intravenously or by mouth to kill cancer cells throughout the body. Chemotherapy may be given before surgery to shrink tumors, or after to fight cancer cells that have potentially spread.

Kidney-sparing surgery
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Surgery meant to remove cancerous growths or tissues on the kidney while also saving as much of the organ as possible.

Radical nephrectomy
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This surgery is the complete removal of the kidney. Often the adrenal gland surrounding the infected lymph nodes is removed as well.

Robotic–assisted surgery
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We have staff surgeons who specialize in using the daVinci® robotic system to treat various UGI cancers. Allowing greater dexterity and precision, robotic-assisted surgery can reduce complications and speed recovery.

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