Kidney Cancer Overview

The kidneys are organs that filter blood and rid the body of liquid waste. This waste, in the form of urine, leaves the kidneys through a thin tube called a ureter that connects to the bladder.

The kidneys are located just to the left and to the right of the backbone. It is possible to survive with less than even one complete kidney. And people without any working kidneys can survive through regular dialysis, a treatment that removes waste and excess fluid from the blood.

Types and Characteristics
Renal cell cancer accounts for more than 90 percent of cancerous kidney tumors. There are five main types of renal cell cancer including clear cell, papillary, chromophobe, collecting duct and unclassified cancers. The clear cell type is the most common renal cell cancer, accounting for approximately 80 percent of cases.

An important consideration in kidney cancer is the grade of the cancer. This can range from 1 to 4 with the lower number looking more like normal cells and offering a better outlook for patients and a higher number looking markedly different from normal cells and indicating a worse outlook for patients.

Treatment Options

Washington University urologic surgeons perform radical and partial nephrectomy (kidney removal). They also perform laparoscopic radical nephrectomy and are investigating several new treatments for kidney cancer including cryoablation (a procedure in which the tumor is frozen to ensure destruction).

Washington University School of Medicine was the site of the first laparoscopic nephrectomy.

For patient appointments, call (314) 362-8200 (Center for Advanced Medicine and Barnes-Jewish West County Hospital).

More information about kidney cancer: