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Division of Urology

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Medical Conditions: Kidney Cancer

The kidneys are two large organs positioned at the back of the abdominal cavity. Their main function is to filter the blood, removing excess water, salt and waste products from the body. The most common form of kidney cancer is renal cell carcinoma, and occurs when a tumor forms in the internal lining of kidney tubules. It is most common in people between the ages of 50 and 70, and affects twice as many men than women. Once a tumor has been diagnosed, there is a 60% chance of it being identified as cancerous (a tumor that spreads to other parts of the body). Otherwise, it will remain in the kidney and cause local problems, though very rarely prove fatal. The earlier the tumor is found and diagnosed, the greater the chance of a recovery.

The most common symptom is blood in the urine, though there are others, such as:

  • persistent lower back pain
  • a mass in the abdomen
  • weight loss
  • swelling of the legs
The choice of treatment for renal cell carcinoma depends on the stage of the cancer (how far it has spread) and the patients overall health. The main treatment is surgery, and has the highest chance of a cure, involving removing all or part of the kidneys, and surrounding tissue, depending on the location and stage of the cancer. Other treatments include chemotherapy and radiotherapy, though these methods arenít normally used if the cancer has remained in the kidney.

Division of Urology American University of Beirut Medical Center Department of Surgery