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Understanding Kidney Cancer

Renal cell carcinoma (RCC) is the most common type of adult kidney cancer, RCC is a mass that grows in the urine-producing portion of the kidney. RCC is more common than cancer of the renal pelvis, the part of the kidney that collects the urine. Affecting about 32,000 Americans each year, this cancer usually responds well to treatment when caught early.

Risk Factors for Renal Cell Carcinoma

The more common risk factors associated with renal cell carcinoma are:

  • Smoking
  • Age, sex, and race – being older than 60, male or African American puts you at higher risk
  • Obesity
  • High blood pressure
  • Family history
  • Long-term hemodialysis
  • Certain genetic disorders such as Von Hippel-Lindau disease

Symptoms of Renal Cell Carcinoma

Early renal cell carcinoma often has no symptoms and may be found by chance during a CT scan or ultrasound that is performed for other reasons. The symptoms of more advanced RCC include:

  • Blood in your urine (hematuria) – the most common sign
  • Mass or lump in your abdominal area
  • Pain in your side, flank or lower back
  • Swelling in your legs and ankles
  • Late symptoms include anemia (low blood count), persistent fatigue and rapid weight loss

It’s important to note that a number of these symptoms can also be caused by other medical conditions. For this reason, it is important that you speak to your doctor about any symptoms you may experience and have annual physical exams to maintain your good health.

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Preventing Kidney Cancer

Quitting smoking is the number one thing you can do to help prevent kidney cancer. Chemicals in tobacco smoke are absorbed into the blood and pass through the kidneys. These chemicals can damage the kidneys and increase your chances of getting kidney cancer or having your cancer come back after treatment.

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