What is kidney cancer?
Most cancers are named after the part of the body where the cancer first begins, and kidney cancer is no exception. Kidney cancer begins in the kidneys – two large, bean-shaped organs – one located to the left, and the other to the right of the backbone. Renal is the Latin word for kidney, and kidney cancer may also be referred to as renal cancer.
About 57,760 persons in the US are expected to be diagnosed with kidney and pelvic renal cancers in 2009. The most common type is called renal cell cancer. The information contained on this page refers to renal cell cancer.
How is kidney cancer (renal cell cancer) diagnosed?
In addition to a complete medical history and physical examination, diagnostic procedures for kidney cancer may include the following:
- blood and urine laboratory tests
- intravenous pyelogram (IVP) – a series of x-rays of the kidney, ureters, and bladder with the injection of a contrast dye into the vein – to detect tumors, abnormalities, kidney stones, or any obstructions, and to assess renal blood flow.
- renal angiography (Also called arteriography.) – a series of x-rays of the renal blood vessels with the injection of a contrast dye into a catheter, which is placed into the blood vessels of the kidney, to detect any signs of blockage or abnormalities affecting the blood supply to the kidneys.
- other imaging tests (to show the difference between diseased and healthy tissues), including the following:
- computed tomography scan (Also called a CT or CAT scan.) – a non-invasive type of x-ray procedure that takes cross-sectional images of the brain or other internal organs; to detect any abnormalities that may not show up on an ordinary x-ray.
- magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) – a non-invasive procedure that produces very detailed two-dimensional views of an internal organ or structure, especially the brain and spinal cord.
- ultrasound (Also called sonography.) – a diagnostic imaging technique which uses high-frequency sound waves and a computer to create images of blood vessels, tissues, and organs. Ultrasounds are used to view internal organs as they function, and to assess blood flow through various vessels.
- chest x-ray – a diagnostic test which uses invisible electromagnetic energy beams to produce images of internal tissues, bones, and organs onto film.
- bone scan – a nuclear imaging method to evaluate any degenerative and/or arthritic changes in the joints; to detect bone diseases and tumors; to determine the cause of bone pain or inflammation.
based on results of other tests and procedures, a biopsy may be needed. A biopsy is a procedure in which a sample of the tumor is removed and sent to the laboratory for examination by a pathologist. Biopsy is the only sure way to diagnose cancer.
Treatment for kidney cancer:
Specific treatment for kidney cancer will be determined by your physician based on:
- your age, overall health, and medical history
- extent of the disease
- your tolerance for specific medications, procedures, or therapies
- expectations for the course of the disease
- your opinion or preference