What is kidney cancer?

Kidney cancer, including renal cell carcinoma, is a disease in which cancer cells develop in the kidney. For a comprehensive overview including subtypes, signs & symptoms, diagnosis, and treatments please see the link in the "Additional Resources" section below.

When to See a Doctor

You should see a doctor if you have any of the symptoms of cancer, or if you are at risk for developing this disease.


Kidney cancer can be difficult to diagnose early as the symptoms aren’t always noticeable until the cancer has advanced. When present, symptoms may include:

  • Blood in your urine
  • A constant pain in the lower back
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Fatigue and exhaustion
  • Fever that comes and goes

For more information on signs and symptoms of kidney cancer visit the "Additional Resources" section below.


Diagnosis and Treatment

Diagnosis and Tests

To better understand your condition, your healthcare provider may ask you questions about your symptoms and health history. You may also need diagnostic tests to determine if you have cancer, as well as the type and severity (stage) of your kidney cancer. Tests may include blood or urine tests, ultrasounds, CT or MRI scans, or a biopsy of the affected kidney tissue.

Kidney cancer is assigned a stage that is based its size and whether or not the cancer has spread beyond the kidney to surrounding tissue or lymph nodes. The stages range from I to IV, with Stage IV being the most aggressive and serious.

Personalized Treatments

Once your cancer care team has a better understanding of your condition, they will recommend a treatment. Treatment options include:

  • Surgery. A surgeon removes either just the affected part of your kidney (partial nephrectomy) or the entire kidney and neighboring lymph nodes (nephrectomy). You can live a normal life with one healthy kidney.
  • Immunotherapy. Immunotherapy uses medicines that are combined with your body’s own immune system to fight the kidney cancer.
  • Targeted therapy. The cancer is targeted with unique medicines that limit the growth of cancer cells.
  • Radiation. Targeted X-rays are used to destroy cancer cells and shrink the size of a tumor.
 For more information on treatment types visit the "Additional Resources" section below.