Kidneys are part of our urinary system. This system filters waste products out of the blood and makes urine. Along with filtering blood via the renal artery our kidneys also produce numerous hormones such as cortisol and adrenaline. Kidney cancer is a relatively rare cancer in the UK and usually affects more men than women (4% men, around 2% of women). Around 50 out of 100 kidney cancers are diagnosed in people over the age of 70. This type of cancer is rare in people under 50.
The kidneys are made up of different types of cells. The type of cancer you have depends on the type of cell the cancer starts in. Only in very rare cases is the cancer in both kidneys. Small kidney cancers don’t usually cause symptoms and the cancer is often diagnosed by chance, but when it does cause symptoms these include:
- Blood in the urine.
- A dull pain in your side between your upper abdomen and back.
- A high temperature, night sweats and feeling very tired.
- Weight loss.
- A lump in the abdomen area, side or back.
It’s unknown what causes most kidney cancer, but some factors may increase your risk of getting it:
- Body weight and height – being overweight causes changes in hormones in the body, it could be this change in the body’s hormone balance that increases the risk of kidney cancer.
- Kidney disease.
- Genetic conditions (see more about these here).
- Family history.
The treatment you have depends on the stage and type of your kidney cancer. Some small kidney cancers may not need treatment straight away. Small kidney cancer is when the tumour is smaller than 3cm across, your doctor may wait and watch the cancer carefully to see if it grows. This way you avoid unnecessary treatments that could affect your quality of life. This is called monitoring, you may also hear it be called active surveillance, observation or watchful waiting.