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Kidney cancer

Kidney cancer starts from the cells of the kidney. Find out causes, risks, symptoms and types, plus learn about different kidney cancer stages.

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If you or someone you love has just been diagnosed with kidney cancer, it’s normal to be upset. You’re probably also wondering how it happened, where it came from, what it means, and what happens next.

Kidney cancer is a type of cancer that starts from the cells of the kidney. It is relatively rare, accounting for only 2-3 of every 100 people with cancer in Australia.

  • Localised kidney cancer – cancer that has formed in the kidney but has not spread from the kidney. Usually there is only one tumour in one kidney. Sometimes two or more tumours occur in the same kidney or in both kidneys.
  • Advanced kidney cancer – cancer that has spread (metastasised) from the kidney to somewhere else in the body. The most common sites are the lymph nodes, lungs, brain and bones. Of the 4000 people that are diagnosed with kidney cancer in Australia each year, 1 in 3 of them will have advanced kidney cancer.

The exact cause of kidney cancer is not known, but certain factors are known to increase a person’s risk of developing kidney cancer. These risk factors include:

  • increasing age
  • smoking
  • gender (twice as common in males)
  • obesity
  • high blood pressure (hypertension)
  • Hepatitis C infection
  • occupational exposure to toxic compounds
  • long-term dialysis and acquired cystic disease
  • family history of kidney cancer
  • specific genetic and hereditary conditions.

What to do next

Kidney cancer treatment depends on what stage you’re in. To find out your options, please visit our kidney cancer treatment page.

If you’d like to speak to someone, you can always call our free Kidney Helpline service on 1800 454 363 during business hours.

If you have further questions, you can also download these fact sheets:

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