Thumbnail image of: Kidney: Illustration
Thumbnail image of: Urinary System: Illustration

Cancer of the Kidney

What is cancer of the kidney?

The kidneys are inside your belly, on either side of your spine just above your waist. They make urine by taking waste products and extra salt and water from the blood. Cancer of the kidney (kidney or renal cancer) is an abnormal growth cells that form tumor in the kidney. If the cancer spreads to other parts of the body, it is still kidney cancer and is called metastatic kidney cancer.

There are different types and stages of kidney cancer based on what kind of cancer cells are found, where the tumor started and where it has spread. Knowing the type and stage of kidney cancer you have helps your healthcare provider decide on the best treatment plan for you. It is important to diagnose and treat kidney cancer as soon as possible. The main goals of treatment are to kill the tumor cells, prevent a localized cancer from spreading, and prevent metastatic cancer from spreading more than it already has.

Several things increase your risk for kidney cancer, including smoking, being obese, having high blood pressure, or a family history of kidney cancer.

What can I expect in the hospital?

Several things may be done while you are in the hospital to monitor, test, and treat your condition. They include:


  • You will be checked often by the hospital staff.
  • Your fluid intake will be monitored closely by keeping track of everything you eat and drink and any IV fluids you receive.
  • Your fluid output may be monitored closely by keeping track of the amount of urine and bowel movements you produce. You may have a small tube (catheter) placed into your bladder through the urethra (the opening from the bladder to the outside of the body) to drain and measure urine from the bladder.


Testing will involve both identifying the primary site of the cancer and checking to see if the cancer has spread to other parts of your body. Tests may include:

  • Blood tests to check for certain hormones, proteins, or chemicals that may be high if you have cancer
  • Blood, urine, or other tests to monitor how well your kidneys and other organs are functioning
  • Urine tests to check for bacteria or blood in your urine
  • Tests to look for abnormalities in your kidneys, which may include:
    • Computed tomography (CT) scan: A series of X-rays taken from different angles and arranged by a computer to show thin cross sections of the kidneys
    • Intravenous pyelography (IVP): An X-ray taken after an injection of a special dye into a vein to help your provider see kidney tumors or other problems as the dye moves through your kidneys to your bladder
    • Kidney biopsy: A biopsy is the removal of a small sample of kidney tissue for testing.
    • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI): A powerful magnetic field and radio waves are used to take pictures from different angles to show thin cross sections of the kidneys
    • Ultrasound scan: Sound waves are used to show pictures of the inside of your kidneys
    • Renal arteriography: A series of X-rays taken after your healthcare provider places a thin, flexible tube (catheter) into a blood vessel that ends near the blood vessels in the kidneys and injects a special dye into the catheter. The X-rays will allow your provider to look for abnormal areas in the blood vessels of the kidneys.
    • Positron emission tomography (PET) scan: A series of detailed pictures that are taken after your healthcare provider injects a small amount of radioactive material into your blood. The scan shows areas where the radioactive material is being absorbed.


The treatment for kidney cancer depends on your symptoms, how well you respond to treatment, your overall health, and any complications you may have. Your chance of cure depends on how far the cancer has advanced. You may need to make lifestyle changes to stay as healthy as possible or manage other treatments.

  • You will have a small tube (IV catheter) inserted into a vein in your hand or arm. This will allow for medicine to be given directly into your blood and to give you fluids, if needed.
  • You may need surgery to remove all or part of your kidney, called a nephrectomy.
  • You may have tumor ablation. Ablation is a procedure in which your surgeon uses radio waves, heat or extreme cold, or chemicals such as alcohol to kill the cancer cells
  • Treatments may include:
    • Chemotherapy (anticancer drugs), which uses medicine to kill cancer cells.
    • Radiation therapy, which uses high-energy X-rays to kill cancer cells.
    • Biological therapy, which uses medicine designed to help your immune system fight the cancer or block the growth of cancer cells.
  • Your provider may also prescribe medicine or other therapy to:
    • Treat pain
    • Treat or prevent an infection
    • Treat or prevent low blood counts caused by the cancer or its treatment
    • Treat or prevent side effects, such as nausea or constipation, from other treatments
    • Help your immune system fight cancer

What can I do to help?

  • You will need to tell your healthcare team if you have new or worsening:
    • Bloating or pain in your belly
    • Back pain
    • Blood in your urine
    • Pain or burning when you urinate
    • Blood in your urine
    • Trouble emptying your bladder
    • Urgent need to urinate often
    • Redness, swelling, pain, warmth, or drainage from your surgical wound
    • Fever, chills, or muscle aches.
  • Ask questions about any medicine, treatment, or information that you do not understand.

How long will I be in the hospital?

How long you stay in the hospital depends on many things, such as your general health, why you are in the hospital, and the treatment you need. The average amount of time to stay in the hospital with kidney cancer is 4 to 5 days. Talk with your provider about how long your stay may be.

Developed by RelayHealth.
Acute Care Advisor 2015.1 published by RelayHealth.
Last modified: 2014-12-22
Last reviewed: 2014-12-22
This content is reviewed periodically and is subject to change as new health information becomes available. The information is intended to inform and educate and is not a replacement for medical evaluation, advice, diagnosis or treatment by a healthcare professional.
Copyright ©1986-2015 McKesson Corporation and/or one of its subsidiaries. All rights reserved.

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