Kidney Cancer

Kidney cancer is curable with early detection.

kidney cancer specialist discusses options with renal cancer patient

What you need to know about kidney (renal) cancer

Kidney (renal) cancer is the third most common cancer of the urinary tract and among the top 10 most common cancers in both men and women. There are three main types of kidney cancer with “renal cell cancer” the most common type found in adults. When detected early the prognosis is positive, as it is typically curable.

Less than 2 percent of men and women are diagnosed with kidney and renal pelvis cancer each year in the U.S. Rates of new cases rose slightly in the 1990s (possibly because of better imaging techniques, which found more cancers) but appear to have leveled off. Survival rates have improved over the past 40 years. Now, almost three-fourths of those who battled kidney cancer are counted as survivors five years after their diagnosis.

Types of kidney cancer

The most common type of kidney cancer is called renal cell carcinoma (RCC). If you have this type of kidney cancer, you may have more than one tumor in one or both kidneys. These may be large by the time they are diagnosed. Most cases of kidney cancer are found before the cancer has spread to other organs.

There are different types of RCC. A healthcare provider called a pathologist identifies these types by looking at the cancer cells under a microscope. The types of RCC include:

  • Clear cell. This is the most common type of RCC. The cancer cells look pale or clear.
  • Papillary. This is the second most common type of RCC. This type of tumor has tiny fingerlike growths.
  • Chromophobe. This is a rare form of RCC. The cells are larger than other types of RCC.
  • Collecting duct. This is also a rare form of RCC. The cancer cells look like irregular tubes.
  • Unclassified. This includes tumors that have cells from more than 1 type of cancer. It also includes tumors with cells that don’t fit into the other categories.

Kidney and renal cancer specialists

Legacy Cancer Institute, located in Portland, OR, ranks among the nation’s best cancer programs. We have a team of kidney cancer specialists who work together to diagnose and develop a personalized treatment plan for you. Find the right provider and treatment close to home. Learn more about our experts.

Legacy Cancer Institute is accredited as an integrated network cancer program by the American College of surgeons Commission on Cancer (CoC). Learn more about our quality cancer care.

Next steps after a kidney cancer diagnosis

At this point, you’ve likely had a physical exam and reviewed your health history with your provider. You may have also had a biopsy to confirm your diagnosis. Following a diagnosis of kidney (renal) cancer, you may have more tests to help your doctor understand your cancer stage.  

Cancer staging includes identifying where the cancer is located, if or where it has spread, and if it is affecting other parts of your body. Knowing the stage allows your doctor to develop your personalized treatment plan.  

Some tests your doctor may now recommend include:

  • Bone scan: To see if cancer has spread to the bones. 
  • Chest X-ray, CT scan, MRI or positron emission tomography (PET): Imaging technology to look inside the body to see if cancer has spread.

Customized treatment plans

Because each person and every cancer is different, your doctor uses your tests and exams to come up with an individual treatment plan. How long this takes depends on how complex your case is and your treatment goals. During this time, you build a relationship with your cancer doctors. You become a team for your care.

Open, honest communication can only benefit your relationship with your doctors. These tips can also help you get the most from this partnership:

  • Prepare in advance: Write down your questions ahead of your visits. A few examples of smart questions:
               - Why are we doing these tests?
               - Why do you think this treatment is right?
               - What side effects might this treatment cause?
  • Find trustworthy resources: If you’re looking to learn more, rely on this website or sources your team recommends, so you can make decisions based on good information.
  • Take a partner: Bringing a friend or family member to appointments can make you feel more confident and help you remember important details.


There are several ways to treat kidney cancer depending on the type and location of the tumor. Options may include surgery to remove part or all of the kidney, chemotherapy, cryoablation, or active surveillance to monitor tumor growth. People often receive a combination of treatments. 

Learn more about your treatment options.

More support

You are not alone. Legacy offers support throughout your cancer journey, as well as care for your emotional, social and spiritual needs.

Nurse navigators
Legacy Cancer Healing Center 
Support groups and classes
Cancer rehabilitation 
Survivorship services