Kidney cancer: survival rate and treatment options

Written by: Mr Chris Blick
Edited by: Laura Burgess

Kidney (or renal) cancer is one of the most common types of cancers in the UK. The survival rate can be excellent if the disease is caught early.

We’ve asked one of our expert urologists Mr Chris Blick to explain the risk factors for renal cancer, the signs and the outlook for healing and survival.

What are the different types of kidney cancer?

The majority of renal cancers are called adenocarcinomas, which arise from the functioning part of the kidney. Approximately 10% originate from the drainage component of the kidney and are called transitional cell carcinomas. Traditionally, renal cell cancer can be divided into five main sub-groups:

  1. Clear cell (Approximately 75% of cases)
  2. Papillary (10-15% of cases)
  3. Chromophobe (5% of cases)
  4. Collecting duct carcinoma
  5. Unclassified renal cell cancer

What causes kidney cancer?

Worldwide, the highest rates of renal cancer occur in North America and Europe and the lowest occur in Africa and Asia. Obesity is thought to cause almost 25% of cases. Smoking, obesity, diabetes and hypertension have all been associated with an increased risk of renal cell cancer.

Increased risk of kidney cancer is also seen in patients with thyroid cancer and those with rare inherited conditions such as Von Hippel-Lindau disease, tuberous sclerosis and Birt-Hogg-Dube syndrome (skin tumour and lung cyst).

What are the signs of kidney cancer?

Currently, more than 50% of kidney cancers are detected incidentally and very few present with the classic symptoms, which include haematuria (blood in the urine), flank pain and an abdominal mass.

Approximately 30% of patients present with paraneoplastic conditions such as high calcium. In the most part, the diagnosis of renal cancer is made via CT or ultrasound scans.

What is the prognosis/survival rate for kidney cancer?

Survival in kidney cancer for those patients diagnosed where the cancer is localised to the kidney is high with over 80% of patients surviving for five years or more from diagnosis.

Unfortunately, for those who are diagnosed when the kidney cancer has already spread to other parts of the body, the prognosis is less favourable.

What is the treatment for kidney cancer?

Wherever possible, nephron sparing or kidney sparing surgery is recommended as this has similar outcomes as to the removal of the entire kidney. Where this is not possible, radical nephrectomy or removal of the entire kidney either via keyhole or open surgery is recommended.

In the case of small renal masses (tumours less than 4cms in maximum diameter) active surveillance, radiofrequency ablation, cryoablation or laser ablation are also considered.

Do not hesitate to book an appointment with Mr Blick if you have any concerns about your renal health.

By Mr Chris Blick

Mr Christopher Blick is a highly skilled consultant urologist based in London and Reading. He specialises in treating kidney cancer, bladder cancer and urinary tract infections, as well as a number of prostate conditions, including BPH, prostatitis, and prostate cancer.

Mr Blick qualified from the University of Sheffield before undertaking his specialist urological training in Oxfordshire, Berkshire, and Buckinghamshire. He then completed a British Association of Urological Surgeons Fellowship to the Keck Institute of Medicine, University of Southern California, USA under the tutorship of esteemed pioneer and international leader of robotic renal and bladder surgery Professor Inderbir Gill. He was later awarded a DPhil (PhD) by Christ Church, University of Oxford.

Mr Blick's research has been widely published, particularly his work on kidney and bladder cancer and he has made presentations at both national and international meetings. He is the UK representative at the Board of the European Association of Urology (young Urologist office) and a member of the editorial board of the Journal of Clinical Urology. His interest in clinical trials led to him being the first urological trainee member of the National Institute of Heath Research (NIHR) clinical studies group (CSG).

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