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Kidney Cancer

If you’ve been recently diagnosed with kidney cancer, you and your family might be overwhelmed with questions and concerns. Your first decision is where to get treatment.

You want a place where you can get the most advanced treatment options available. A place where you are supported by a team of compassionate experts. A place where you are treated as a whole person.

MultiCare Regional Cancer Center is that place. We have the region’s best health care providers in the field of oncology. Our world-class treatment facility offers cutting-edge technology in a welcoming and positive healing environment.

Learn about our comprehensive treatment approach, our cancer care team or more about kidney cancer in the tabs below.

Kidney Cancer Facts


A kidney tumor is an abnormal growth in the kidney, an organ responsible for many functions such as filtering blood, balancing electrolytes and intake of fluids. It’s important to understand that kidney cancer can be treated and cured if caught early.

The most common type of kidney cancer is renal-cell carcinoma.


Kidney cancer is often undiscovered until the later stages. Symptoms may include:

  • Abdominal or back pain and swelling that doesn’t go away
  • Blood in the urine
  • Swelling of the veins around a testicle (varicocele)
  • Weight loss
  • Constipation
  • Cold intolerance
  • Excessive hair growth in females
  • Pale skin
  • Vision problems
  • Recurrent fevers not associated with colds or flu

Taking steps to improve your health may lower your risk of getting kidney cancer. Ways to improve your health include quitting smoking, eating a healthy, balanced diet, getting regular exercise, lowering your blood pressure and avoiding exposure to environmental toxins.

Causes and Risk Factors

The exact causes of kidney cancer are unknown, but there are several risk factors that could increase your chances of getting kidney cancer:

  • High blood pressure
  • Dialysis treatment
  • Horseshoe kidney
  • Polycystic kidney disease
  • Tuberous sclerosis
  • Four inherited diseases:

Von Hippel Lindau syndrome

  • Birt-Hogg-Dube syndrome
  • Hereditary non-VHL clear cell renal cell cancer
  • Hereditary papillary renal cell cancer

Kidney cancer usually affects people over the age of 50. Men are more likely to get the disease then women. Smoking, being overweight and having a high-fat diet also increases the risk of getting kidney cancer.

Sometimes, substances in the workplace, such as asbestos, cadmium (a trace metal) and organic solvents (especially trichloroethylene), may also be risk factors for kidney cancer.

Occupations that have been linked to asbestos exposure include:

  • Builders
  • Car mechanics
  • Shipyard workers
  • Leather tanners
  • Shoe workers

Detecting, Diagnosing and Staging Tests

If your doctor thinks you may have kidney cancer, he or she will ask you questions about your medical history and give you a physical exam. Other tests may include:

  • Blood tests to check the number of red blood cells
  • Urine test to detect blood, bacteria or cancer cells
  • Biopsy, in which a sample of tissue is taken and examined under a microscope. A pathologist can look at the tissue sample and see if it contains cancer.

Imaging tests are necessary to look at the inside your body and also to detect if the cancer has spread. These test include:

  • X-ray of the abdomen and kidney
  • Ultrasound of the abdomen and kidney
  • Intravenous pyelogram (IVP) 
  • Bone scans
  • Renal arteriography
  • Abdominal CT scan
  • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) 
  • Positron emission tomography (PET)


Surgery is the most common treatment for kidney cancer. Your doctor may use one of several surgical procedures to treat your cancer. 

  • Arterial Embolization: a procedure to shrink the tumor by depriving it of oxygen-carrying blood and other substances is sometimes used before surgery to make surgery easier. It may also be used to provide relief from pain or bleeding when removing the tumor is not possible.
  • Radical Nephrectomy: The entire kidney is removed along with the nearby adrenal gland, fatty tissue and lymph nodes.
  • Simple Nephrectomy: The entire kidney is removed.
  • Partial Nephrectomy: The part of the kidney containing that contains the cancer is removed.

For transitional-cell carcinoma, the options include the following:

  • Nephroureterectomy: The kidney, ureter and part of the bladder are removed.
  • Segmental Resection: The affected part of the kidney or ureter is removed. 
  • Electrosurgery Endoscopic Resection: An electric current removes the cancer by burning away the tumor and the areas around it. Laser energy is also used in some cases to remove the cancer cells.
  • Laser Light: A narrow beam of intense light is used to remove cancer cells. All of these surgical procedures can be performed laparoscopically — with the aid of a camera so that there are no large incisions.

Chemotherapy and Radiation

Renal-cell carcinoma does not respond well to chemotherapy but there are sometimes dramatic responses to newer immunotherapy approaches. Chemotherapy is used to treat patients with advanced kidney cancer and transitional-cell carcinoma.

Radiation therapy is often given to patients who are too sick to have surgery but want relief from their symptoms.

Supportive and Integrative Therapies

In addition to the therapies described above, we offer complementary therapies such as nutritional therapy, physical therapy, yoga, massage and emotional counseling. Many of these therapies are remarkably effective in addressing the side effects of chemotherapy, surgery and radiation by easing tension, reducing pain and improving quality of life.