Kidney Cancer

Robert Sterling Hollabaugh, Jr. M.D., FACS


Kidney cancer (also called renal cell carcinoma or renal adenocarcinoma) is a disease in which malignant (cancer) cells develop in the microscopic tubules (very small tubes) of the kidney. In normal anatomy, there are two kidneys, one on each side of the backbone, above the waist. The tiny tubules in the kidneys function to filter and clean the blood, taking out waste products and making urine. The urine passes from each kidney through a long tube called the ureter into the bladder, where the urine is stored until it is passed out of the body with urination.

The American Cancer Society predicts that there will be about 38,890 new cases of kidney cancer in the year 2006 in this country. About 12,840 people will die from this disease. Most people with this type of cancer are older, and it is very uncommon among people under age 45.

Renal cell carcinoma, which originates in the functioning tubules of the kidney is the most common variety of kidney cancer, but other types of cancer can develop in the kidney system. Cancer that originates in the drainage system of the kidney (ureters or the renal pelvis) is different from renal cell cancer, and is treated with different considerations.