In the United States, kidney cancer accounts for about 4% of all cancers and each year more than 61,000 people are diagnosed with kidney cancer. The most common type of kidney cancer is renal cell carcinoma (RCC), which starts in the lining of very small tubes (tubules) in the kidney. Kidney cancer occurs slightly more often in males and is usually diagnosed between the ages of 50 and 70 but can occur at any age. In adults, the most common type of kidney cancer is renal cell cancer.1,2
The kidneys are organs that are responsible for eliminating waste material from the blood by making urine. The kidneys also produce hormones, which regulate blood pressure and control red blood cell production. Most people have two kidneys and located just above the kidneys are the adrenal glands, which produce several essential hormones. Adrenal hormones help to regulate metabolism, blood pressure, inflammation, and response to stress. The adrenal glands also produce small amounts of sex hormones (androgens and estrogens).
Tiny tubules in the kidneys filter and clean the blood, remove waste products and make urine. Urine passes from each kidney through a long tube called a ureter into the bladder, which holds the urine until it passes through the urethra and leaves the body.
Renal cell cancer is a disease in which cancer cells develop in the cells lining the small tubules in the kidney. Cancer that starts in the ureters is different from renal cell cancer and is discussed in transitional cell cancer of the bladder.
The body can function perfectly well with one kidney and one adrenal gland if they are normal. This allows for the removal of one entire kidney and adrenal gland when necessary to remove a cancer localized to the kidney area.1,2
1 Ljungberg B, Campbell S and Cho H. The Epidemiology of Renal Cell Carcinoma. Eur Urol. 2011;60:615-621.
2 American Cancer Society. What is kidney cancer? Available from: https://www.cancer.org/cancer/kidney-cancer/about.html. Accessed July 2018.