by Wood D

Cancer is a disease in which cells grow in an uncontrolled way. If cells keep dividing when new cells are not needed, a mass of tissue called a tumor forms.

A tumor can be benign or malignant. A benign tumor is not cancer and will not spread to other parts of the body. A malignant tumor is cancer. Cancer cells invade and damage tissue around them. They can also enter the lymph and blood streams. From there, they can spread to other parts of the body. Kidney cancer is when cancer cells develop in the kidneys.

Cancer Cell Growth
cancer cell growth
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Normal Anatomy and the Development of Kidney Cancer

The kidneys are 2 bean-shaped organs. They are located in the rear of the abdominal cavity. The kidneys are part of the urinary system. They filter excess water, salts, nutrients, and wastes from the blood. The kidneys also balance acids, and regulate fluids and blood pressure. The kidney has long, thin tubes called ureters. Urine passes through ureters to the bladder.

Cells in the kidneys can be damaged by waste products and toxins in the blood. Irritation of the kidney cells can be increased with kidney diseases, dialysis, or long-term exposure to toxins. This can increase the risk of kidney cancer.

Kidney cancer can cause bleeding or interfere with kidney function. If it grows beyond the kidneys, the cancer can get into nearby structures—such as the ureters or bladder. Cancer can also spread to lymph nodes or blood vessels. From there, it can carry cancer cells to other areas of the body. Common places are the bones, lungs, liver, and brain.

Anatomy of the Kidney
anatomy of the kidey
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Types of Kidney Cancer

The types of kidney cancer are:

  • Renal cell adenocarcinoma—Most common type. Starts in the lining of the tubes in the kidneys.
  • Transitional or urothelial carcinomas—Transitional cells are special cells that line the ureter. The cancer can start in part of the kidneys closest to the ureters and bladder.
  • Wilms tumor —Most common kidney cancer in children.
  • Sarcoma—Starts in connective tissue or blood vessels of the kidneys. This is rare.

Kidney cancer may result in multiple tumors in one or both kidneys.


General information about renal cancer. National Cancer Institute website. Available at: Updated May 11, 2018. Accessed December 31, 2018.

Kidney cancer. National Kidney Foundation website. Available at: Accessed December 31, 2018.

Kidney cancer (adult)—renal cell carcinoma. American Cancer Society website. Available at: Accessed December 31, 2018.

Renal cell carcinoma. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at: . Updated October 10, 2018. Accessed December 31, 2018.

Renal cell carcinoma. Merck Manual Professional Version website. Available at: Updated October 2017. Accessed December 31, 2018.

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