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Kidney Cancer

Kidney Cancer

​​​​​​What factors can increase my risk of getting kidney cancer?

If you have one or more of the risk factors listed below, it doesn’t mean that you will get kidney cancer for sure. It just means you are more likely to get kidney cancer than someone who doesn’t have any risk factors. Most people who have kidney cancer don’t have any known risk factors.

  • Smoking: Smokers are twice as likely​ to get kidney cancer.
  • Obesity: If you have a very high amount of body fat, you're​ more likely to get kidney cancer.
  • High blood pressure: If you have high blood pressure or take blood pressure medicine (e.g., diuretics, which make you urinate more often), you have a higher risk of kidney cancer.
  • Kidney disease: If you are on dialysis or take medicine that weakens your immune system (immunosuppressant medicine) after a transplant, you have a higher risk of kidney cancer.
  • Family history: If your father, mother, brother, or sister (first-degree relative) has kidney cancer, you are twice as likely to get it.
  • Environment: If you work in a steel plant or are exposed to cadmium, asbestos, trichloroethylene, aniline dyes, or heavy metals, you may have a higher risk of getting kidney cancer but the causal relationship is unclear.
  • Age: If you are over 45, you're​ more likely to get kidney cancer.
  • Gender: Men are twice as likely as women to get kidney cancer.
  • History of kidney cancer: If you have or had kidney cancer, you may have inherited a damaged gene. This gene may increase your risk of getting cancer in your second kidney. This happens in 3 percent of people with kidney cancer.
  • Thyroid cancer: If you have thyroid cancer, you have a higher chance of getting kidney cancer.

What can I do to lower my risk of getting kidney cancer?

To lower your risk of getting kidney cancer:

  • stay at a healthy body weight
  • try to keep your blood pressure at a healthy level (below 120/80) by eating a healthy diet and exercising
  • quit smoking
  • limit your exposure to environmental toxins

What are the symptoms of kidney cancer?

Click here to find out about the symptoms of kidney cancer.

​​​​​​What tests are used to diagnose kidney cancer?

Click here to find out about tests done to diagnose kidney cancer.

If I have kidney cancer, will I need surgery?

If you have kidney cancer that has not spread outside the kidney (localized disease), you will likely have surgery. Your doctor will tell you which surgery is best for you. Depending on the size and location of the tumour, surgery may be done by laparoscopy or through an incision in the abdomen or the side of the body (open procedure). The types of surgery you may have include:

  • Partial nephrectomy—a procedure to remove the part of the kidney where the tumour is located. With this procedure, some of the kidney remains and continues to function. Your doctor will tell you if you can have this type of surgery because it depends on how big the tumour is, where it is, and other factors.​
  • Radical nephrectomy— surgery done to remove a kidney. An incision is made in the abdomen or side and the kidney, lymph nodes, and a small amount of healthy tissue around the tumour (the margin) are removed. Sometimes the adrenal gland is removed.
  • ​Cryotherapy—a cooled gas is injected into the tumour to kill the cancer. You may be offered this treatment if the tumour is small, depending on the location.

What if the kidney cancer has spread?

If the kidney cancer has spread, other treatments may be needed, including:

  • Targeted therapy—this means getting medicine which targets how cancer cells grow. The medicine can be given by mouth (m​ost often) or injected into a vein. It kills the cancer cells or slows down their growth.
  • Immunotherapy —medicine that can boost the immune system so your body can fight the cancer.
  • Radiation therapy may be used to control symptoms with advanced kidney cancer. It isn’t used to treat kidney cancer unless it has spread outside the kidney.

What is my chance of survival?

The sooner cancer is detected, the better your chance of survival.

If kidney cancer is found early, 90 percent of people live over 5 years. About 2 out of 3 people diagnosed with kidney cancer live over 5 years after they are diagnosed.​

Current as of: November 1, 2018

Author: CancerControl Alberta, Alberta Health Services