Kidney Cancer

Effective diagnosis and treatment of kidney cancer comes from experience and being at the forefront of new technologies and research. Providence Saint John’s leads the way with a Urologic Oncology Program that prides itself on personalized care. Our patients are treated by a specialized team of surgeons, medical oncologists, radiation oncologists, pathologists, researchers and more. We are home to a world-renowned urologist who is an expert in minimally invasive laparoscopic and robotic-assisted cancer surgery.

We also are focused on studying the kidneys to better diagnose and treat kidney cancer, and perhaps prevent it altogether. Timothy G. Wilson, M.D., professor and chair of Urology at the John Wayne Cancer Institute at Providence Saint John’s, leads research on urologic cancers.

Kidney Cancer Q&A

In this video series, Dr. Linehan answers questions about Kidney Cancer, available treatments and steps for prevention.

The Kidney

Your kidneys are a pair of organs each about the size of a fist. They are part of the urinary tract. Their main job is to make urine by removing waste and extra water from your blood before sending this liquid into your bladder.

Kidneys also help control blood pressure by making a hormone called renin. And they help make sure the body has enough red blood cells by making a hormone called erythropoietin.

Kidney Cancer

The body’s cells grow, divide and make new cells in an orderly way. Cancer begins when cells start to grow out of control and form new cells that the body doesn’t need.

This overgrowth of abnormal cells can become a mass of tissue called a tumor.

There are two kinds of kidney tumors:

  • Benign tumors: These are not cancerous, and usually they are not a threat to life. They don’t invade the tissue around them and once they are treated or removed, they usually don’t grow back.
  • Malignant tumors: These are cancerous growths. Although they usually can be removed, they can also grow back.

There are two kinds of kidney cancer:

  • Renal cell carcinoma: About 9 out of 10 kidney cancers are renal cell carcinomas. About 54,000 Americans are diagnosed with renal cell carcinoma each year. Most are over 55 years old.
  • Transitional cell carcinoma: About 5 to 10 of every 100 cancers in the kidney are transitional cell carcinomas. These carcinomas don’t start in the kidney itself but in the lining of the renal pelvis.

Kidney cancer cells can spread through the lymph nodes and blood vessels to the lungs, bones or liver. When this happens, the cancer has metastasized and new tumors may form in those parts of the body.