Renal cancers

Renal cancers (tumours)

What are renal cancers?

Renal cancers are any type of cancer originating in the kidneys. About 3600 cases are diagnosed each year in Australia, accounting for about 2.5% of all cancer cases. Around 2/3 of all renal cancers are diagnosed in men.

Sandhurst Urology offers diagnostic, treatment, and ongoing management services for all forms of renal cancer. Contact our team in Bendigo for expert advice.


Symptoms of renal cancer

Many cases of renal cancer do not present with symptoms in their early stages, though larger cancers can have noticeable effects. These may include:

  • Constant tiredness
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Feeling a lump in the abdomen
  • Fever unrelated to a cold or flu
  • Lower back pain on one side that is not caused by injury
  • Difficulty urinating

Remember that your own experience with renal cancers is individual – you may not experience every symptom and may experience slightly different symptoms to those specified. For further advice and diagnosis, book an appointment at Sandhurst Urology.

How renal cancers are diagnosed

A suspected renal cancer is diagnosed with a combination of methods. These can include:

  • Blood chemistry studies – these specialised blood tests measure the amount of various substances in your blood. Unusual levels of chemicals produced by the kidneys could indicate a kidney condition.
  • Urinalysis – a study which checks the appearance and contents of your urine, particularly looking for sugar, protein, red blood cell, and white blood cell abnormalities that could indicate impeded kidney function.
  • Kidney biopsy – your doctor may recommend a small procedure to remove a sample of your kidney’s tissue and test it for abnormal cells. This procedure is not always needed.
  • MRI scans – these use magnetic imaging to create a detailed map of your body’s soft structures. Doing so can help the doctor confirm whether a tumour is present, assess its size, and plan an effective course of treatment.
  • Ultrasounds - These tests let your doctor to physically see the mass and assess which parts of your kidneys it may affect.
  • Computed tomography (CT) scans – This advanced X-Ray procedure is able to show your physician the exact location, size and shape of a tumour to plan an effective course of treatment.

Preventing renal cancers

Some factors – such as genetics and gender – cannot be prevented. However, the following actions (in addition to specific recommendations made by your medical team) may help decrease your chances of developing renal cancer.

  • Quit smoking – an estimated 1 in 3 cases of kidney cancer are thought to be related to smoking. Since smoking introduces nicotine to your bloodstream and your kidneys filter blood, the kidneys may be at particular risk of absorbing related toxins.
  • Assess your workplace safety – working with chemicals such as arsenic, cadmium, or trichloroethylene may raise your chances of developing kidney cancer. These chemicals can be found in some batteries, paints, welding materials, solar cells, and mining processes.
  • Manage high blood pressure – many studies have shown a correlation between renal cancers and high blood pressure, so reducing high blood pressure may help reduce your renal cancer risk.
  • Maintain a healthy weight – obesity affects the balance of growth hormones in your body, which some researchers believe may impact the growth of kidney cancers.

Treatments for renal cancers

Medical treatments for renal cancer are usually aimed at preventing the cancer’s growth. This may be done using one or more of the methods below.

  • Active surveillance – not all renal tumours require active treatment. Your urologist may recommend regular scans and tests to see whether the cancer progresses further and catch it early if it does.
  • Targeted therapies ­– these medications act on the cancer’s specific genes, proteins, or tissue environment to stop it from growing. Targeted therapy treatments can be very individualised and are often offered in conjunction with other therapies.
  • Immunotherapy – these therapies improve your immune system’s ability to find, attack, and kill cancer cells. They are usually administered through an IV during a hospital stay.
  • Cryoablation – a metal probe is inserted through a small incision in the body and used to freeze the cancer cells, causing them to die. The procedure is done in a hospital and under general anaesthetic.
  • Radiofrequency ablation – a surgeon inserts a needle into the tumour, then uses an electric current to destroy the cancer cells. The procedure is usually done under sedation and a local anaesthetic.

Medical interventions for renal cancers

Sandhurst Urology’s Bendigo clinic offers a range of surgical treatments for renal cancers, usually aimed at removing as much of the tumour as possible. These include:

  • Nephrectomy – this is the most common type of surgery for treating kidney cancer. Your surgeon will surgically remove your entire affected kidney, along with some healthy tissue surrounding it to reduce the chance of cancer returning.
  • Partial nephrectomy – this procedure involves removing the part of your kidney affected by cancer, but leaving the rest of the affected kidney in place. It may be recommended if you have a small renal tumour (less than 4cm), have cancer in both kidneys, or only have one functioning kidney.

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