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What is Kidney Cancer

Kidney Cancer UK have provided a clear and up to date explanation of kidney cancer.

What is Cancer?

Cancer is a group of diseases in which cells grow uncontrollably and have the ability to spread (metastasise) to another part of the body. There are more than 200 different cancers and each type of cancer has its own characteristics. When a cancer spreads to another part of the body it takes its own characteristics with it. So, for example, if a renal cancer spread to the liver, the tumour in the liver would both look and behave the same way as the original tumour. Cancer cells develop as a result of damage to DNA, the controlling mechanism for all the activities of the cells. This damage may be caused by a number of factors, including environmental, dietary and genetic. The body normally repairs damaged DNA, but in cancer cells this does not occur.

Cancers originate from a single cell. This cell divides and eventually forms a tumour. Tumours can be either malignant or benign.

Malignant tumours are cancerous tumours. The rate of cell division in cancer cells is greater than the rate of cell death, resulting in the growth of a tumour. Cancers do not always grow particularly fast. It is actually the lack of cell death in cancers that causes them to grow, rather than cell division being particularly fast. Cancerous tumours can originate in any of the common tissue types in the body.

Another important characteristic of cancer cells is their inability to recognise when they come into contact with different cell types. This means they are able to spread away into surrounding tissue and other areas of the body, via the blood stream or the lymphatic system (metastasise).

Benign tumours are not classified as cancers. The main difference between benign and malignant (cancerous) tumours is that benign tumours do not spread away from the site of origin.

Cancers originate from a single cell. This cell divides and eventually forms a tumour. Tumours can be either malignant or benign.

Malignant tumours are cancerous tumours. The rate of cell division in cancer cells is greater than the rate of cell death, resulting in the growth of a tumour. Cancers do not always grow particularly fast. It is actually the lack of cell death in cancers that causes them to grow, rather than cell division being particularly fast. Cancerous tumours can originate in any of the common tissue types in the body.

Cancer cells

Another important characteristic of cancer cells is their inability to recognise when they come into contact with different cell types. This means they are able to spread away into surrounding tissue and other areas of the body, via the blood stream or the lymphatic system (metastasise).

Benign tumours are not classified as cancers. The main difference between benign and malignant (cancerous) tumours is that benign tumours do not spread away from the site of origin.

The Kidneys

The kidneys are a pair of bean-shaped organs that are found high in the back of the abdominal cavity, just below the rib cage; one on either side of the spine. The right kidney is slightly lower than the left because of the position of the liver.

What is Kidney Cancer?

The most common form of kidney cancer is Renal Cell Carcinoma or RCC for short. About 90 per cent of kidney cancers are RCCs. There are several different sub-types of RCC, which are named according to the type of cell that is affected, or the appearance of the cancer cells under the microscope. The most common of these is clear cell, which account for about 75 per cent of RCCs. Other subtypes include papillary, chromophobe, and collecting duct carcinoma.

We have informative booklets to help you in three stages of your journey available by clicking here.

Subtypes of renal cell carcinoma (RCC)

  • Conventional or clear cell RCC – this can also be called non-papillary RCC and accounts for 75 per cent of RCC cases. The cancer cells appear clear under the microscope and have large nuclei.
  • Papillary or Chromophilic RCC accounts for about 10-15 per cent of RCC cases. The tumours have characteristic papillae or nodules on the surface.
  • Chromophobe RCC accounts for about 5 per cent of cases
  • Collecting Duct Carcinoma
  • Renal Medullary Carcinoma
  • Mucinous Tubular and Spindle-Cell Carcinoma
  • Renal Translocation Carcinomas
  • Unclassified RCC, the latter five of which together make up the remaining 5-10 per cent of RCC tumours
  • Wilms’ tumour – A type of kidney cancer that can affect children. Kidney cancer in children is rare but Wilms’ is the most common type. Around 80 children are diagnosed with a Wilms’ tumour each year in the UK. They are most common in children under 5 and rarely they develop in older children and adults.

Symptoms and Diagnosis

Find out more about kidney cancer symptoms and the diagnostic process.

Treating Kidney Cancer

There are various types of treatment of kidney cancer. Find out more here.

Living with Kidney Cancer

Here you can read about ways to help those living with kidney cancer.

Further Information

We have provided a wealth of information about kidney cancer, it’s effects and what help is available.

Support Line

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Kidney Cancer Information

Whether you are recently diagnosed, undergoing or completed treatment for kidney cancer, are a carer, a friend or family of a kidney cancer patient, Kidney Cancer UK is here for you .

For further support call our Support Line to talk to a member of our Health team on 0800 002 9002.