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
  • Eating large amounts of red meat, such as beef or pork

What are the signs and symptoms of renal cancer?

  • Pink, red, or brown urine
  • Abdominal pain or pain in your side
  • A lump or growth in your abdomen or side
  • 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 sample may be checked for blood, cancer cells, or infection.
  • X-ray, ultrasound, CT, or MRI pictures will show a kidney tumor. You may be given contrast liquid to help the tumor show up better in pictures. 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.
  • Ureteroscopy and pyeloscopy are procedures to look inside your ureters and kidney. Samples of tissue may be removed and tested for cancer. Ask your healthcare provider for more information on these procedures.
  • A biopsy may be used to take a sample of tissue from your kidney or ureter. The sample will be sent to a lab and tested for cancer.

How is renal cancer treated?

  • Surgery is the main treatment for renal cancer. Your entire kidney may be removed, or only the part where the tumor is found. Lymph nodes or other tissues that contain cancer cells may also be removed.
  • Procedures may be used to kill the cancer cells. Examples include cryosurgery, radiofrequency ablation, and arterial embolization. Ask your healthcare provider for more information on these procedures.
  • Targeted therapy is medicine given to target and kill cancer cells. It may shrink a kidney tumor or slow its growth.
  • Immunotherapy is medicine to help your immune system fight the cancer cells.

Treatment options

The following list of medications are in some way related to or used in the treatment of this condition.

  • Sutent
  • Votrient
  • Afinitor
  • Inlyta
  • Avastin

What can I do to care for myself?

  • Do not smoke. Nicotine can damage blood vessels and make it more difficult to manage renal cancer. Smoking also increases your risk for new or returning cancer. Ask your healthcare provider for information if you currently smoke and need help to quit. E-cigarettes or smokeless tobacco still contain nicotine. Talk to your healthcare provider before you use these products.
  • Do not drink alcohol. Alcohol can damage your kidneys and make it hard to manage renal cancer. Alcohol can also increase your risk for dehydration.
  • Drink liquids as directed. Liquids will help prevent constipation and fluid loss caused by vomiting or diarrhea. Ask your healthcare provider how much liquid to drink each day and which liquids are best for you.

Eat a variety of healthy foods. Healthy foods include fruits, vegetables, whole-grain breads, low-fat dairy products, beans, lean meats, and fish. Your healthcare provider may recommend that you limit red meat. You need to eat enough calories to help prevent weight loss and increase your energy level. You also need protein to give you strength. If you do not feel hungry, eat small amounts often instead of large meals. Your healthcare provider or dietitian to help you plan your 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.

Where can I find more information and support?

It may be difficult for you and your family to go through cancer and cancer treatments. Join a support group or talk with others who have gone through treatment.

  • American Cancer Society
    250 Williams Street
    Atlanta , GA 30303
    Phone: 1- 800 - 227-2345
    Web Address:
  • National Cancer Institute
    6116 Executive Boulevard, Suite 300
    Bethesda , MD 20892-8322
    Phone: 1- 800 - 422-6237
    Web Address:

Call your local emergency number (911 in the US), or have someone call if:

  • You have trouble breathing.
  • You feel lightheaded, short of breath, and have chest pain.
  • You cough up blood.

When should I seek immediate care?

  • Your arm or leg feels warm, tender, and painful. It may look swollen and red.
  • You cannot urinate.
  • You have severe fatigue or confusion.

When should I call my doctor?

  • You have a fever.
  • Your pain does not go away after you take pain medicine.
  • You have new or worsening pain.
  • You have swelling in your legs or feet.
  • You lose more weight than your healthcare provider said is okay.
  • You have questions or concerns about your condition or care.