Cancer of the kidneys, also known as renal cancer, can be cured if detected early. However, symptoms may not occur until
the tumor has become large or metastasized (spread
to other organs), when it is difficult to treat. The majority of kidney cancers
are renal cell carcinomas, also known as renal adenocarcinomas or clear cell carcinomas.
Most kidney cancers affect adults between 50 and 70 years of age. The most
common type of kidney cancer in children is called Wilms
tumor. The July 7, 2004, issue of JAMA includes an article about renal
Kidney cancers most commonly occur in adults older
than 50 years.
Men are twice as likely to have renal cancers as
Cigarette smoking increases the risk of developing
renal cell cancer.
Environmental and occupational exposures to asbestos,
cadmium, and organic solvents increase the risk of developing kidney cancer.
Obesity and eating a high-fat diet have been linked
with as many as 20% of kidney cancers.
von Hippel-Lindau disease
is a genetic condition that has a high incidence of kidney cancer.
Hematuria (blood in the
Abdominal or low back pain unrelated to injury
Unintentional weight loss
Anemia (low red blood
High blood pressure
Leg or ankle swelling
Diagnosis of renal cancer may involve several kinds of tests. In addition
to a detailed medical history, physical examination, and laboratory blood
testing, tests may include a computed tomography (CT) scan, ultrasound, magnetic
resonance imaging (MRI), or intravenous pyelography (a
dye and x-ray test of the kidneys). Chest x-ray and bone scan may be used
to detect metastatic disease. Arteriography, a technique
that uses dye in the blood vessels feeding the kidney, may define the extent
of the tumor or help plan surgical treatment.
Surgical removal of the kidney (nephrectomy)
and surrounding tissue may cure kidney cancer in persons whose tumor is confined
to the kidney. Radiation therapy (high-energy x-ray
treatments) may be offered to patients to treat pain and advanced or metastatic
kidney cancers or to help shrink a tumor that is causing obstruction. Immunotherapy helps to boost the body's own immune system
to fight the cancer. Interferon and interleukin 2 boost the immune system and may be used to treat patients
with advanced kidney cancer. Patients who volunteer for clinical trials (medical research studies) may be offered immunotherapy
in combination with experimental treatments.
American Cancer Society 800/227-2345 http://www.cancer.org
National Cancer Institute 800/4-CANCERhttp://www.cancer.gov
To find this and previous JAMA Patient Pages, go to the Patient Page
link on JAMA's Web site at http://www.jama.com. Many are available in English and Spanish. A Patient Page on preventing
cancer was published in the May 26, 2004, issue; and one on cancer clinical
trials was published in the June 9, 2004, issue.
Sources: American Cancer Society, National Cancer Institute
The JAMA Patient Page is a public service of JAMA. The information and recommendations appearing on this page
are appropriate in most instances, but they are not a substitute for medical
diagnosis. For specific information concerning your personal medical condition, JAMA suggests that you consult your physician. This page
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Torpy JM, Lynm C, Glass RM. Kidney Cancer. JAMA. 2004;292(1):134. doi:10.1001/jama.292.1.134