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Human concept of kidney cancer anatomy as cancer cells in a human body attacking the urinary system and kidney anatomy as a symbol of tumor growth with 3D illustration elements. (Source: Shutterstock)

Renal cell cancer

Definition of renal cell cancer


Renal cell cancers are also referred to as renal carcinoma or adenocarcinoma of the kidney. They account for around 95 percent of all kidney tumours and originate mostly in the cells of the urinary tract.

Renal cell cancer is caused by a degeneration of the tubule cells in the renal cortex. They account for about two percent of all malignant tumours in adults. The peak age is between 45 and 65. Currently, about six to seven people per 100,000, more often men than women, contract the disease every year.

Causes of renal cell cancer

The possible causes of renal cell cancer include changes in scarring, excessive consumption of painkillers and smoking.

Symptoms of renal cell cancer

Renal cell cancer presents no discomfort to the patient over a long period of time, so it is often only detected at an advanced stage. Classic symptoms are blood in the urine (which is painless for the patients) and pain in the kidney or side. However, these are not early, but late symptoms! One third of patients already have metastases at the time of diagnosis.

More than half of all kidney tumours are identified through other symptoms such as high blood pressure and back pain or symptoms of metastases that have already appeared in various organs. If blood clots obstruct the urinary tract after bleeding from a tumour, kidney colic can also be the first symptom. In later stages of the disease, patients report a loss of energy, weight loss, night sweats and sometimes fevers.

Diagnosis of renal cell cancer


An ultrasound is the first step towards a more accurate evaluation of the kidney. It can also be used to perform punctures of abnormal growths in the kidney, which are then histologically assessed by the pathologist.


Intravenous urography is an x-ray with a contrast medium that can be used in the kidneys to provide information about obstructed urine flow and to assess the function of the healthy kidney.


Computer tomography of the abdomen is used to determine the spread of the tumour. X-rays of the chest (thorax) and, if necessary, a skeletal scintigraphy and a brain MRI (MRT) can be used to detect possible remote metastases.

Therapies for renal cell cancer

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