Kidney Cancer

Expert Care and Treatment for Genitourinary Cancers

The Lank Center includes medical, urologic, and radiation oncologists who treat patients with prostate, kidney, bladder, and testicular cancer, as well as adrenocortical carcinoma.

Your care team will collaborate to develop a comprehensive, personalized treatment plan that offers the most advanced therapies and an array of supportive resources. 

Genitourinary Cancer Treatment Center

What Is Kidney Cancer?

Kidney cancer, also known as renal cell cancer (RCC), is a disease in which cancer cells form in the tiny tubes (tubules) or tissues of the kidneys. Kidney cancer generally grows as one tumor within the kidney; however, a kidney may contain more than one tumor, or tumors may be found in both kidneys. Another form of kidney cancer is Wilms' tumor, a pediatric cancer that accounts for 95 percent of childhood kidney cancer cases. 

Risk Factors 

Risk factors for kidney cancer may include: 

  • Smoking 
  • Being an older male 
  • Obesity 
  • High blood pressure 
  • Family history of kidney cancer 
  • Advanced kidney disease and long-term kidney dialysis 
  • Misuse of pain medications, including over-the-counter medications 
  • Certain genetic conditions, such as von Hippel-Lindau disease or hereditary papillary renal cell carcinoma 
  • A diet high in red meat or dairy 

Signs and Symptoms 

Symptoms may not appear during the early stages of kidney cancer, but rather as the tumor starts to grow. Signs and symptoms of kidney cancer vary from person to person, but the most common sign is blood in the urine (hematuria). However, blood in the urine may be caused by a number of conditions, and does not necessarily mean cancer. 

Anatomy of the male urinary system (left) and female urinary system (right) show the kidneys, ureters, bladder, and urethra. The kidneys (two) are located above the waist on each side of the backbone. The tiny tubes of the kidneys filter and clean blood, removing waste through urine. Urine is passed from the kidneys into the bladder through long tubes called ureters

Common kidney cancer signs and symptoms may include: 

  • Blood in the urine 
  • A lump in the abdomen (on the side or lower back) 
  • Pain in the side, abdomen or lower back that doesn't go away 
  • Loss of appetite 
  • Weight loss for no known reason 
  • Anemia 
  • Swelling of the ankles and legs 
  • Unexplained fever or fatigue 


To diagnose kidney cancer or see if the cancer has spread, these tests may be performed: 

  • Physical exam 
  • Blood, liver function, and urine tests 
  • Ultrasound 
  • Biopsy 
  • X-ray 
  • CT (CAT) scan 
  • MRI scan 

Learn details about how we diagnose kidney cancer


Treatment options for kidney cancer depend on the stage of the cancer, as well as the patient's general health. Common treatment options include: 

  • Kidney-sparing surgery 
  • Laparoscopic and robotic surgery 
  • Cryoablation or radiofrequency ablation 
  • Targeted therapies 
  • Immunotherapy 
  • Active surveillance 

Learn details about how we treat kidney cancer


The chance of recovery (prognosis) depends on the stage of the disease, as well as the patient's age and health. 

Kidney Cancer Patient Living Longer Thanks to Work of Nobel Laureate

From bench to bedside, meet the Dana-Farber patient who is living longer thanks to Nobel Laureate Bill Kaelin's research. Shaun Tierney and his oncologist, Dana-Farber's Dr. Toni Choueiri, explain the clinical implications of drugs made possible through Dr. Kaelin's work.

Why Choose Us

When you come to the Lank Center for Genitourinary Oncology at Dana-Farber Brigham Cancer Center, you are cared for by compassionate and experienced leaders in their field, who put your well-being and treatment first. Our multidisciplinary team of experts provides the safest, most effective therapies to treat your kidney cancer, while minimizing the side effects of treatment. We work closely with you to personalize your care every step of the way. Our cancer team cares for hundreds of new kidney cancer patients each year, as well as thousands of patients for follow-up care. 

The internationally recognized doctors and researchers in the Genitourinary Oncology Program use leading-edge techniques and conduct innovative studies and clinical trials to improve outcomes for all kidney cancer patients. Our team, which includes urologists, medical oncologists, radiation oncologists, pathologists, radiologists, nurses, and support staff, goes beyond treating the disease; they are here to support each kidney cancer patient and family member. 

We provide comprehensive services to patients with these cancers, including:  

  • Personalized treatment plans tailored to your specific cancer 
  • Nationally recognized research team who precisely identify cancer cells using a clinical database of over 8,000 genitourinary cancer samples 
  • Advanced molecular research techniques to identify tumors, including research in tumor-suppressing proteins for kidney cancer 
  • Access to clinical trials for all stages of kidney cancer, some of which may not be available elsewhere 
  • Multidisciplinary care delivered by specialists from Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and Brigham and Women’s Hospital