What is kidney cancer?

The kidneys are bean shaped organs near the middle of your back. They filter waste products out of your blood as urine. Kidney cancer develops when abnormal cells in either of the kidneys start to divide and grow in an uncontrolled way.

Symptoms of kidney cancer

Most people who are diagnosed with kidney cancer do not have any symptoms. When someone does have symptoms, these might include blood in the urine or a lump in the kidney area.

Getting diagnosed with kidney cancer

You should see your GP first if you notice a change that isn't normal for you. They will do some tests and may refer you to a specialist if they think your symptoms could be due to kidney cancer.

Survival for kidney cancer

Survival depends on many factors. No one can tell you exactly how long you will live. These are general statistics based on large groups of people. They can’t tell you what will happen in individual cases. 

Treatment for kidney cancer

Treatments for kidney cancer include surgery, cryotherapy, radiofrequency ablation and radiotherapy. You might have different treatment for advanced kidney cancer.

Stages, types and grades of kidney cancer

Tests tell your doctor more about the kidney cancer. They tell them the sort of kidney cell it started in (type). And how much the cells look like normal cells (grade). They also show how big the cancer is and if it has spread (stage).

Advanced kidney cancer

Advanced kidney cancer means a cancer that started in the kidney has spread to another part of the body. It is also called metastatic kidney cancer. Treatment depends on how many parts of the body the cancer has spread to and how quickly it has spread.

Research and clinical trials into kidney cancer

Researchers are currently looking at ways to improve the diagnosis and treatment of kidney cancer. They are also looking to see if there are better ways to check if cancer treatments are working.

Living with kidney cancer

Being diagnosed with kidney cancer may mean you have to make changes to keep your kidneys or remaining kidney healthy. There are people and organisations available to help you cope with being diagnosed with kidney cancer, and to support you in making these changes.

Risks and causes of kidney cancer

We don't know what causes most kidney cancers. But some factors may increase the risk of getting it. These include getting older, smoking and some rare inherited conditions.

Last reviewed: 
29 Jan 2024
Next review due: 
29 Jan 2027

Page Credits: 

This section has been written, reviewed and updated by Cancer Research UK’s Patient Information Web Team. Thank you to the expert medical professionals and people affected by cancer who have helped to review this information.

  • Dr Matthew Seager (Consultant Interventional Radiologist)
  • Professor Maxine Tran (Professor in Urology and Honorary Consultant Urology Surgeon)
  • Dr Matthew Young (Genitourinary Oncology Fellow)
  • Marta Marchetti (Urology and Robotics Surgical Care Practitioner)