Kidney cancer

Every year, over 9,000 people in the UK are diagnosed with kidney cancer (renal cancer). It affects more men than women.

Kidney cancer is more common in people over 60 and rarely affects people under 40. Usually only one kidney is affected, and it's rare for cancer to affect the other kidney.

Wilms' tumour (or nephroblastoma) is an uncommon type of kidney cancer that can affect very young children.

Cancer of the kidney isn't infectious and can't be passed on to other people.

There are different types of kidney cancer. About 90% of kidney cancers (9 out of 10) are renal cell cancers (RCC), sometimes called renal adenocarcinoma. They start in the cells that line very small tubes, called tubules, in the kidney cortex.

There are different types of renal cell cancer. The most common type is clear cell renal cancer. Less common types are papillary, chromophobe and collecting duct renal cancer.

Another type of cancer that can affect the kidneys starts in the cells that line the renal pelvis, where the kidney joins with the ureter. These cancers, sometimes called transitional cell cancers, behave and are treated differently to renal cell cancer.

Symptoms of kidney cancer

Kidney cancers that are small don't usually cause symptoms, because they can't be felt or seen. Early kidney cancers are often diagnosed by chance when people are having tests or scans for some other reason.

Some possible symptoms are:
  • blood in the urine (haematuria) - it's very important to get this checked by your doctor
  • a lump in an area of the kidney that's found during an examination
  • a dull pain in the side between your upper abdomen and back
  • having an ongoing high temperature, night sweats, feeling very tired, or losing weight for no obvious reason.

Most people with these symptoms won't have kidney cancer. They can be caused by other more common conditions, such as an infection or stones in the bladder or kidneys. But if you have any of these symptoms, it's important to get them checked by your doctor.

*Information provided by Macmillan cancer support 

At The Christie, the urology team treat kidney cancers.

Last updated: March 2023