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Kidney cancer is a disease that starts in the kidneys. It happens when healthy cells in one or both kidneys grow out of control and form a lump (called a tumor).

Kidney masses are common and are incidentally identified with radiological imaging (CT scan) to evaluate other disease processes.  These masses can be cancerous, cystic mass (harmless fluid filled cyst), or non-cancerous solid lesions in the kidney.


Signs and symptoms:

In the early stages, most people don’t have signs or symptoms. Kidney cancer is usually found by chance during an abdominal imaging test for other complaints. As the tumor grows, you may have:

  • Blood in the urine

  • Pain in the lower back

  • A lump in the lower back or side of the waist

  • Unexplained weight loss, night sweats, fever, or fatigue


  • The reason why kidney cells change and become cancerous is not yet known

  • We know that people are more likely to develop kidney cancer as they age. However, there are certain genetic risk factors linked to the kidney cancer.



Once kidney cancer is found, your doctor will run tests to find out if the cancer has spread within the kidney or to other parts of the body. This process is called staging. It is important to know the stage before making a treatment plan. The higher the stage, the more serious the cancer.


Surgery is most common treatment for kidney cancerous kidney cysts — most people with early stage cancer (stages 1, 2, and 3) can be cured with surgery. Most commonly, renal cyst will be harmless, but can cause significant pain if it is larger than 5cm.  In such cases, laparoscopic or key-hole surgery excision of the renal cyst is the preferred treatment option.


Over 90% of solid renal masses, are cancerous in nature. The benefit of diagnosing the mass while it is still small, is that only the renal mass can be excised, not the whole kidney.  This strategy is to preserve kidney function.  This operation is best performed laparoscopically or robotically at specialised hospitals that has significant experience in this treatment.  The benefit of removing only the mass, as suppose to the whole kidney, is that the patient will not require dialysis. Minimally invasive surgery for the kidney is usually very successful in clearing all the cancer with the benefit that the patient won’t require radio- or chemotherapy.


Partial nephrectomy:

In a partial nephrectomy, the tumor or the part of the kidney with the tumor is removed to leave behind as much of the kidney as possible

Radical nephrectomy:

In a radical nephrectomy, the entire kidney is removed. If needed, the surrounding tissues and lymph nodes may also be removed.

Surgical approaches:

Ask your doctor about the surgical approach that is best for you:

  • Open (traditional surgery with a long incision)

  • Laparoscopic (surgery done with a video camera and thin instruments for smaller incisions)

  • Robotic (laparoscopic surgery done with the help of a robot)

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