Skip to Content
How to talk to a doctor about advanced ovarian cancer >>

Renal Cancer


What is renal cancer?

Renal cancer begins in the kidney or ureters. The ureters are the tubes that connect your kidneys to your bladder. Urine is made in the kidneys, collects in the bladder, and is emptied from your body through your urethra.

What increases my risk for renal cancer?

  • Age between 45 and 75 years
  • A gene that makes certain cancers more likely, or a family history of renal cancer
  • Smoking cigarettes
  • Obesity
  • High blood pressure
  • Kidney disease, long-term kidney dialysis, or a kidney transplant
  • Large amounts of red meat, such as beef

What are the signs and symptoms of renal cancer?

  • Pink, red, or brown urine
  • Abdominal pain or pain in your side
  • Muscle pain or weakness
  • A lump or growth in your abdomen or side
  • Swollen lymph nodes in your armpit, neck, or groin
  • Swollen legs or feet, or swelling in your scrotum (males)
  • Loss of appetite or weight loss
  • Fatigue, fever, or night sweats

How is renal cancer diagnosed?

  • A urine test is used to test your urine for blood, cancer cells, and signs of infection.
  • An x-ray, ultrasound, CT, or MRI may show a kidney tumor. You may be given contrast liquid to help the tumor show up better. Tell the healthcare provider if you have ever had an allergic reaction to contrast liquid. Do not enter the MRI room with anything metal. Metal can cause serious injury. Tell the healthcare provider if you have any metal in or on your body.
  • A biopsy may be used to take a sample to be tested for cancer.

How is renal cancer treated?

  • Surgery is the main treatment for renal cancer. Your surgeon may remove your entire kidney or only the part where the tumor is found. Surgery may be done through small incisions with a tool called a laparoscope. You may have open surgery instead of laparoscopic surgery. This is the removal of your kidney through a large incision. Your surgeon may also remove lymph nodes or other tissues that contain cancer cells.
  • Procedures may be used to kill the cancer cells. Cryosurgery is a procedure used to freeze the cancer cells with liquid nitrogen or liquid carbon dioxide. Radiofrequency ablation delivers radio waves to heat and kill the tumor.
  • Targeted therapy is medicine given to target and kill cancer cells. It may shrink a kidney tumor or slow its growth.
  • Immune therapy medicine helps your immune system fight the cancer cells and slow their growth.

What can I do to manage my renal cancer?

  • Do not smoke. Nicotine can damage blood vessels and make it more difficult to manage your renal cancer. Smoking also increases your risk for new or returning cancer and delays healing after treatment. Do not use e-cigarettes or smokeless tobacco in place of cigarettes or to help you quit. They still contain nicotine. Ask your healthcare provider for information if you currently smoke and need help quitting.
  • Do not drink alcohol. Alcohol can damage your kidneys.
  • Drink liquids as directed. Liquids will help prevent constipation and fluid loss caused by vomiting or diarrhea. Liquids can also help remove extra fluid buildup and relieve swelling. Ask your healthcare provider how much liquid to drink each day and which liquids are best for you.
  • Eat healthy foods. Healthy foods include fruit, vegetables, whole-grain breads, low-fat dairy products, beans, lean meats, and fish. Your healthcare provider may recommend that you eat less red meat. You need to eat enough calories to prevent weight loss and energy loss caused by cancer treatment. You also need protein to give you strength. If you do not feel hungry, eat small amounts often instead of large meals.
  • Exercise as directed. Exercise can increase your energy level and appetite. Ask your healthcare provider how much exercise you need and which exercises are best for you.

Call 911 for any of the following:

  • Your arm or leg feels warm, tender, and painful. It may look swollen and red.
  • You have pain or discomfort in your back, neck, jaw, stomach, or arm.
  • You have discomfort in your chest that feels like squeezing, pressure, fullness, or pain.
  • You feel lightheaded or short of breath.

When should I seek immediate care?

  • Your pain does not go away after you take pain medicine.
  • You cannot urinate.
  • You have severe fatigue or confusion.

When should I contact my healthcare provider?

  • You have a fever or night sweats, or you are very tired.
  • You have dizziness or a headache.
  • You have an upset stomach, poor appetite or weight loss, or you are vomiting.
  • You have swollen lymph nodes in your armpit, neck, or groin.
  • You have muscle pain or weakness.
  • You have abdominal or bone pain.
  • You see blood in your urine.
  • You have swelling in your scrotum (males).
  • You have questions or concerns about your condition or care.

Care Agreement

You have the right to help plan your care. Learn about your health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your caregivers to decide what care you want to receive. You always have the right to refuse treatment. The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

© 2015 Truven Health Analytics Inc. Information is for End User's use only and may not be sold, redistributed or otherwise used for commercial purposes. All illustrations and images included in CareNotes® are the copyrighted property of A.D.A.M., Inc. or Truven Health Analytics.