What are the Different Types of Renal Cell Cancer?

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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 20 October 2019
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Renal cell cancer comes in a number of forms, with the most common being renal cell carcinomas, which account for the majority of cases of kidney cancer. When a patient is diagnosed with kidney cancer, a pathologist will examine a sample of tissue from the kidneys to determine which type of renal cell cancer is involved, as the treatment recommendations will vary depending on which form of cancer is responsible. Ongoing research into kidney cancers is constantly occurring, and patients may want to ask about clinical trials as a treatment option if they are interested in assisting scientific research and exploring some advanced treatment techniques.

Renal cell carcinomas are broken up into a number of types. Clear renal cell carcinoma is the most common form, but patients can also develop papillary renal cell carcinomas, also known as chromophil renal cell carcinomas, along with chromophobe, collecting duct, and unclassified carcinomas. Transitional cell cancer, also called urothelial cell cancer, is a type of renal cell cancer which originates in the area where the kidney and the ureter meet, and renal sarcoma, also known as spindle cell, is a form of renal cell cancer which arises in the connective tissues of the kidney.


Children can develop a rare type of renal cell cancer known as Wilms' Cell. This type of cancer has an excellent prognosis if it is caught early and the appropriate treatment is provided, and it appears to be most common in African-American populations. Like other childhood cancers, it can be identified early by an alert pediatrician who has a child's complete medical and family history.

Several types of growth which occur in the kidneys are benign in nature. These include renal adenomas, oncocytomas, and angiomyolipomas. Some of these benign tumors can grow quite large, creating a mass in the kidney which may be identified during a physical examination or ultrasound study, but they are not usually harmful. If tumor growth interferes with kidney function, a doctor may recommend that the growth be removed.

Symptoms of renal cell cancer can include difficulty urinating, blood in the urine, fatigue, night sweats, anemia, and pain in the abdomen. Patients with a family history of such cancers should be especially alert to symptoms so that the cancer can be diagnosed and treated early. Regular medical exams and preventative care can also help patients catch renal cell cancer early, with the assistance of a general practitioner or a urologist.


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