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Clinical Specialties - Cancer

Kidney Cancer

San MDTKidney cancer is cancer that starts in the cells of the kidney.   Another name for kidney cancer is renal cell carcinoma.  The kidneys are a pair of bean-shaped organs located on either side of your spine and are protected by the lower ribcage.

Uro-Oncology MDTThe kidney cancer experts at Sydney Adventist Hospital use several methods to confirm your diagnosis and determine the stage of your disease. They have experience with early-stage as well as complex cancer; have access to advanced diagnostic tools and a wide range of treatments, including clinical trials. At the same time, our supportive clinicians help you manage side effects to support your quality of life. Explore this section to learn more about kidney cancer, its side effects and your treatment options.

About kidney cancer

According to the Cancer Council, more than 3,000 Australians are diagnosed with kidney cancer each year, making it the 10th most common cancer in Australia. It also makes up 2.5% of all cancers and affects males more than females.

In the early stages of kidney cancer or renal cell carcinoma (which is the most common form), the primary cancer forms a tumour that is confined to the kidney. In nearly all cases, only a single kidney is affected, however both can be affected.  With growth, the cancer may invade other nearby structures or even spread further to other parts of the body, such as the lugs or bones.

The main function of the kidney is to filter blood and remove excess water, salt and waste from the body.  Although the body has two kidneys, only part of one kidney is necessary to function.

What are the symptoms of kidney cancer?

The most common signs of kidney cancer include:

  • Blood in the urine which may make urine look rusty or dark red
  • Low back pain or pressure on one side that doesn’t go away
  • A mass or lump on the side or lower back
  • Fatigue
  • Loss of appetite or unexplained weight loss
  • A persistent fever not caused by infection
  • Anaemia (low red blood cell count)
  • Swelling of the ankles and legs
  • In men, a cluster of enlarged veins, called a varicocele, around a testicle, typically, the right testicle

Although these symptoms may indicate kidney cancer, they also may be caused by other, less serious health issues. Some kidney cancer patients experience none of these signs, and others experience different symptoms entirely. If you are concerned, then please check with your general practitioner (GP).

Who is at risk of getting kidney cancer?

The causes of kidney cancer are not known, but factors that put some people at higher risk are:

  • smoking
  • overuse of pain relievers containing phenacetin (this chemical is now banned)
  • workplace exposure to asbestos or cadmium (construction workers, dock workers, painters and printers)
  • a family history of kidney cancer
  • being overweight or obese
  • high blood pressure
  • having advanced kidney disease
  • being male: men are more likely to develop kidney cancer than women.
How is kidney cancer diagnosed?

Often kidney tumours are found accidently when doctors are examining patients for other conditions before symptoms become apparent.  Because of this, as many as one in three kidney tumours are found to be benign (non-cancerous).

Some of the tests and procedures used to diagnose kidney cancer include:

  • Blood and urine tests. Tests of your blood and your urine may give your doctor clues about what's causing your signs and symptoms.
  • Imaging tests. Imaging tests allow your doctor to visualise a kidney tumour or abnormality. Imaging tests might include an ultrasound, a computerised tomography (CT) scan or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI).
  • Removing a sample of kidney tissue (biopsy). In rare cases, your doctor may recommend a procedure to remove a small sample of cells (biopsy) from a suspicious area of your kidney. The sample is tested in a lab to look for signs of cancer.

Getting an accurate diagnosis helps ensure that you get the most effective treatment.

What are my treatment options?

Kidney cancer can be treated using some of the most advanced treatments and technology available.  Depending on the nature of your diagnosis and recommendations from the multidisciplinary team of kidney cancer experts, your treatment may include any or some of the following:

  • Surgery
  • Chemotherapy
  • Radiation therapy
  • Interventional radiology
  • Targeted therapy
  • Immunotherapy

The San has a multidisciplinary team of experts that can assist you throughout your cancer experience as well as providing all the latest surgical and medical technology to treat your kidney cancer.

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Sydney Adventist Hospital Clinical Specialties and Services