What are the symptoms and treatment options for renal cell carcinoma?

Symptom Database

Renal cell carcinoma, also known as kidney cancer, is a type of cancer that originates in the cells of the kidney. It is the most common type of kidney cancer in adults, accounting for approximately 90% of all cases. Renal cell carcinoma can present with various symptoms and treatment options, which we will explore in this article.

Symptoms of Renal Cell Carcinoma

The symptoms of renal cell carcinoma can vary from person to person. Some individuals may experience no symptoms at all, while others may exhibit several. It is important to note that the presence of these symptoms does not necessarily indicate the presence of kidney cancer, as they can also be associated with other conditions. However, if you experience any of the following symptoms, it is advisable to consult a healthcare professional for further evaluation:

  • Blood in the urine (hematuria)
  • Back pain, specifically below the ribs
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Fatigue
  • Loss of appetite
  • Intermittent fever
  • Swelling in the legs and ankles

If you notice any of these symptoms, it is crucial to seek medical attention promptly. Early detection and diagnosis can significantly improve the prognosis and treatment outcomes for renal cell carcinoma.

Treatment Options for Renal Cell Carcinoma

The treatment of renal cell carcinoma depends on various factors, including the stage of the cancer, the overall health of the patient, and the presence of any underlying medical conditions. The primary treatment options for renal cell carcinoma include:


Surgery is often the first-line treatment for localized renal cell carcinoma. The goal of surgery is to remove the tumor and any surrounding affected tissue. The type of surgery performed may vary depending on the size and location of the tumor. Common surgical procedures for renal cell carcinoma include:

  • Partial nephrectomy: Removal of the tumor while preserving the healthy portion of the kidney
  • Radical nephrectomy: Removal of the entire affected kidney
  • Laparoscopic or robotic-assisted surgery: Minimally invasive techniques that offer faster recovery and reduced scarring

Targeted Therapy

Targeted therapy involves the use of drugs that specifically target cancer cells, inhibiting their growth and spread. These medications work by interfering with the signaling pathways that promote tumor growth. Targeted therapy has shown promising results in the treatment of advanced renal cell carcinoma. Some commonly used targeted therapy drugs include:

  • Sunitinib
  • Sorafenib
  • Pazopanib
  • Everolimus


Immunotherapy is a type of treatment that harnesses the body’s immune system to fight cancer cells. It works by stimulating the immune system to recognize and attack cancer cells more effectively. Immunotherapy has shown significant success in the treatment of advanced renal cell carcinoma. One example of immunotherapy used in kidney cancer is:

  • Checkpoint inhibitors (e.g., nivolumab, pembrolizumab)

Radiation Therapy

Radiation therapy uses high-energy beams to target and destroy cancer cells. It is typically used in cases where surgery is not feasible or as an adjuvant treatment to surgery. Radiation therapy may help alleviate symptoms and slow the progression of advanced renal cell carcinoma.


Chemotherapy is not commonly used as a primary treatment for renal cell carcinoma. However, it may be employed in certain cases where the cancer has spread to other parts of the body. Chemotherapy drugs work by killing rapidly dividing cells, including cancer cells. However, they can also affect healthy cells, leading to various side effects.


Renal cell carcinoma, or kidney cancer, presents with a range of symptoms that can vary from person to person. It is crucial to be aware of these symptoms and seek medical attention if they persist or worsen. Early detection and diagnosis play a vital role in the successful treatment of renal cell carcinoma.

Treatment options for renal cell carcinoma include surgery, targeted therapy, immunotherapy, radiation therapy, and chemotherapy. The choice of treatment depends on several factors and should be determined by a healthcare professional. It is essential to discuss the potential benefits and risks of each treatment option with your doctor to make an informed decision.

Remember, this article is for informational purposes only and should not replace professional medical advice. If you suspect you may have renal cell carcinoma or any other health concern, please consult a healthcare professional for an accurate diagnosis and appropriate treatment plan.

Haroon Rashid, MD
Rate author
Urgent Care Center of Arlington, VA
Add a comment