Kidney Cancer | Miami Cancer Institute | Baptist Health South Florida
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Young woman with kidney cancer at Miami Cancer Institute

 Kidney Cancer

Miami Cancer Institute’s multidisciplinary team of experts provides the safest, most effective therapies to target kidney cancer, while minimizing the side effects of treatment. Our physicians use sophisticated techniques and conduct innovative studies and clinical trials to improve outcomes for all kidney cancer patients.

About Kidney Cancer

The kidneys filter blood, and the waste is expelled in urine. You have two kidneys, one on each side of the upper abdomen, close to the back. It is possible to live with one kidney, or even a partially functioning kidney.

Kidney cancer forms in tissues of the kidneys. Renal cell carcinoma, which forms in the lining of small tubes that filter blood and remove waste, is the most common form of kidney cancer.

Kidney Cancer Risk Factors

Smoking is the key risk factor for kidney cancer. Men are more than twice as likely as women to get the disease, and people of African-American or American Indian descent have a slightly higher rate of incidence.

Other kidney cancer risk factors include:

  • Over age 50.
  • Obesity.
  • High blood pressure.
  • Advanced kidney disease and long-term kidney dialysis.
  • Exposure to asbestos, benzene, herbicides and organic solvents and cadmium and coke, which are used in making steel.
  • Rare inherited conditions such as von Hippel-Lindau disease or hereditary papillary renal cell carcinoma.
  • Family history of kidney disease.

Symptoms of Kidney Cancer

Most people with kidney cancer do not experience symptoms until the cancer is advanced. If symptoms are present, the most common are:

  • Blood in the urine.
  • Chronic fever.
  • Chronic fatigue.
  • Dull pain in the abdomen or lower back.
  • Loss of appetite and weight loss.
  • Swelling in the ankles and legs.

With recent improvements in detection, fewer than 40 percent of kidney cancer cases are advanced when discovered. If you have symptoms that may signal kidney cancer, your doctor will perform a physical exam and review your health history, including lifestyle habits and family history. You also may have one or more of the following tests:

  • Biopsy or fine-needle biopsy.  
  • Blood test, including a liver function test that checks the amounts of enzymes released by the liver.
  • Imaging studies, such as CT scan, PET scan, MRI, bone scan, X-ray and ultrasound.
  • Urine test.
  • Genetic counseling and testing, for people with a family history of bladder cancer or hereditary cancer syndromes.

Studies have shown that recovery and survival rates are higher for patients who are treated at a comprehensive cancer center with a multidisciplinary team of experts, like those found at Miami Cancer Institute. Our highly skilled urologists, medical, surgical and radiation oncologists, palliative care physicians, nurses and support team consider all aspects of your health when creating your comprehensive treatment plan.

Here are the most common treatments for kidney cancer:

  • Surgery to remove part of the kidney (partial nephrectomy) or the whole kidney (radical nephrectomy) may be performed by a skilled surgical oncologist. In some cases, these surgeries are minimally invasive, using laparoscopic or robotic techniques.
  • Other minimally invasive surgery procedures include:

  • Cryoablation, which uses extreme cold to freeze the tumor; and
  • Radiofrequency ablation, which uses intense heat to destroy the tumor.
  • Targeted Therapy uses anti-angiogenic drugs to shrink the tumor or slow its growth.
  • Immunotherapy, or biological therapy, may be used to treat kidney cancer that has spread. This therapy type uses drugs delivered through a catheter to stimulate an immune response within the bladder to destroy cancer cells.
  • Clinical trials​ can offer innovative treatment options. Talk to your doctor to see if you are a candidate for a clinical trial.