6 Kidney (Renal) Cancer and Tumor Types - The Complete Overview

What is Kidney Cancer?

When the cells present in the kidneys start growing uncontrollably and form a cancerous mass, it is referred to as kidney cancer or kidney carcinoma. Kidney carcinoma affects all age groups. Early detection and timely treatment lead to effective management of kidney cancer.

What is Kidney Tumor?

A kidney tumor refers to the cancerous or non-cancerous growth that occurs in the kidneys. Non-cancerous kidney tumors are localized, benign, and relatively easier to treat. It is important to be mindful of symptoms and see a doctor when something is not normal. If left untreated, a kidney tumor can become kidney cancer.

Difference between Kidney Cancer and Kidney Tumor

The terms "kidney cancer" and "kidney tumor" are often used synonymously. However, there is a slight difference between these two. Kidney cancer refers to a cancerous mass that can spread to nearby and distant organs in the body. A kidney tumor, on the other hand, refers to a mass that may be non-cancerous (benign) or cancerous (malignant). A kidney tumor is localized and is not necessarily life-threatening. Due to their benign nature, most kidney tumor types may only need surveillance or watchful waiting to be managed effectively.

In other words, all kidney cancers are kidney tumors, however, not all kidney tumors are kidney cancers.

How Common is Kidney Cancer?

In India, the incidence of kidney carcinoma is relatively lower, which could partly be due to under-reporting. Reports suggest that renal cell carcinoma (RCC), a type of kidney cancer, accounts for 3% of all cancers, and accounts for 85% of all kidney cancers. Over the years, the incidence of kidney carcinoma has been on the rise; this could possibly be because of the advanced imaging techniques available today.

Whom Does Kidney Cancer Affect?

Kidney cancer can affect all age groups. However, studies have found that the risk of kidney carcinoma increases with age. Men are more likely to be diagnosed with kidney carcinoma than women. Obesity, smoking, chronic kidney disease, alcohol consumption, and long-term dialysis are important risk factors for kidney cancer, and those who identify with these factors should consider talking to their doctor about measures that can help reduce their cancer risk.

6 Kidney Cancer Types That You Need to Know

Based on the type of cell that it originates from, the following are the different kidney cancer types:

Renal Cell Carcinoma

Renal cell carcinoma or renal cell cancer is the most common type of kidney cancer. If we are to explain renal cell carcinoma meaning, it refers to the growth of a tumor inside the lining of the tiny tubules that are responsible for the filtration of blood.

Transitional Cell Cancer

Transitional cell cancer, also called renal transitional cell carcinoma, forms in the transitional (urothelial) epithelial cells that line the urinary tract from the kidneys to the urethra. This is a rare form of kidney carcinoma.

Wilms Tumor

Wilms tumor, or nephroblastoma, is one of the most common types of pediatric cancer. When it comes to Wilms tumor’s meaning, it refers to the growth of abnormal mass in the kidneys. This type of kidney carcinoma is more common among children under the age of 5. Wilms tumor has a good prognosis. The following are the different types of Wilms tumor:

Benign Kidney Tumors

Benign kidney tumors are localized and non-cancerous. They are easily treated and cured. They may not cause symptoms. The following are the different kidney tumor types:

Renal Sarcoma

A renal sarcoma is a rare form of kidney cancer that arises from the connective tissues. It is one of the kidney cancer types that is aggressive and has a poor prognosis.

Metastatic Kidney Cancer

Metastatic kidney cancer refers to kidney cancer that has started spreading to nearby and distant organs in the body. Metastatic renal cell carcinoma is relatively more challenging to treat. The management of metastatic kidney cancer will require complex and aggressive treatment regimens.

What Are the Stages of Kidney Cancer

Depending on the severity, kidney cancer is categorized into four stages:

Frequently Asked Questions

The rate at which kidney cancer spreads depends on its type and the patient's overall health status. A few kidney cancer types are aggressive and spread more rapidly, whereas others have a relatively slower growth rate. Early detection is one way to stop kidney cancer from progressing to advanced stages and making its treatment challenging.

A few renal cell carcinoma (RCC) subtypes are aggressive and have a poor prognosis. Type 2 papillary RCC, collecting duct RCC, unclassified RCC, and renal medullary carcinoma are the most aggressive kidney cancer types. Renal sarcoma is also another type of aggressive kidney carcinoma.

Kidney cancer is treatable. Patients go on to live a long and healthy life after their treatment, provided they are diagnosed and treated in the early stages.

While early-stage kidney cancer can be treated successfully, advanced-stage cancers will need more complex treatment regimens for their management.

Different treatment approaches used for kidney carcinoma include surgery, radiation therapy, chemotherapy, immunotherapy, and targeted drug therapy.

There are no known specific renal cancer types that are hereditary. That said, certain hereditary risk factors have been identified for renal cell carcinoma. Having a family history of renal cell carcinoma is a key risk factor. Lastly, being predisposed to certain inherited genetic conditions can increase one’s kidney cancer risk. Those with the following genetic disorders have a higher risk of developing renal cell carcinomas:
Von Hippel-Lindau (VHL) disease
Clear cell renal cell carcinoma (ccRCC)
Hereditary papillary renal cell carcinoma (HPRCC)
Hereditary leiomyomatosis and renal cell carcinoma (HLRCC)
Birt-Hogg-Dubé syndrome (BHD)
Tuberous sclerosis complex (TSC) syndrome
Succinate dehydrogenase (SDH) complex syndrome

Those with a family history of kidney cancer or genetic conditions associated with different renal cancer types should consider genetic counseling and testing.

No. Not all kidney cancer or renal cancer types spread. Some kidney tumor types are benign or localized. Benign kidney tumors are not life-threatening and can be cured effectively. Angiomyolipomas and oncocytomas are examples of benign kidney tumors.

Malignant kidney tumors, on the other hand, do spread and will need a comprehensive treatment approach to be managed effectively. Early detection can help prevent kidney cancer from spreading to nearby and distant organs.

The survival rates for renal cell carcinomas depend on multiple factors, namely the type of RCC, the stage at which it is diagnosed, the patient’s health condition, and the form of treatment administered.

  • A few renal cancer types, namely type 1 papillary RCC and chromophobe RCC, have a better disease prognosis and higher survival rates. RCC types, such as clear cell RCC, collecting duct RCC, unclassified RCC, and renal medullary carcinoma, are aggressive forms of RCC and have relatively poor survival rates.
  • Early-stage RCCs tend to have better survival rates than advanced-stage RCCs.
  • Patients with other underlying health conditions may not have better survival rates.
  • The kind of treatment administered may also have an impact on survival rates.