Kidney cancer is a type of cancer that arises from the cells of the kidney. Another name for kidney cancer is renal cell carcinoma. The most common type of kidney cancer is clear cell carcinoma.
Kidney cancer is caused by changes in DNA in cells within the kidney. Our bodies are always making new cells, so we can grow, to replace worn-out cells, or heal damaged cells after injury. This process is controlled by instructions and recipes coded in the DNA, called genes. All cancers are caused by changes to genes.
Changes to genes that cause cancer usually happen during our lifetime, although a small number of people inherit these changes from a parent. The average age of people found to have kidney cancer is 55 years. It is rare in children.
Like most cancers, kidney cancers begin small and can grow larger over time. They usually grow as a single mass, but more than one tumour may occur in one or both kidneys.
If kidney cancer is treated in its early stages it is most likely to be cured. If kidney cancer cells spread, they may spread into surrounding tissue or to other parts of the body. When kidney cells reach a new organ or bone, they might continue to grow and form another tumour (a metastasis) at that site.
Primary cancer is a cancer that has formed in an organ (in this case the kidney) but has not spread elsewhere. Other words like ‘localised’ or ‘early’ apply if the primary cancer has not spread.
Secondary cancers or metastases (or metastatic or advanced cancers) have spread from somewhere else in the body. It’s very rare for a cancer from another part of the body to spread to the kidney.
Go to our Kidney Cancer Support and Information Pack for more resources.
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