What Is the Difference between Kidney and Bladder Cancer?

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  • Written By: Allison Boelcke
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 05 March 2020
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Kidney cancer is a disease in which abnormal cells grow within either of the kidneys, which are primarily responsible for removing waste products from the blood. It has many similarities to bladder cancer, in which abnormal cells uncontrollably multiple within the bladder, the sac that holds and dispenses urine. These similarities may be the result of the two organs working together in the waste removal process. Once waste is removed from the blood by the kidneys, it is then moved into the bladder so it can exit the body. Although these organs have similar functions and many aspects of cancers affecting them are alike, there are also key differences between kidney and bladder cancer.

One main difference between kidney and bladder cancer are the possible causes of the diseases. Although neither type of these cancers have a definitely proven cause, they each have different risk factors that may make a person more likely to develop either of the diseases. Risk factors for kidney cancer include being exposed to chemicals like cadmium and asbestos, receiving kidney dialysis treatment over an extended period of time, or having kidney-related conditions, such as hereditary papillary renal cell carcinoma or Von Hippel-Lindau disease. A person may be more likely to develop bladder cancer if he or she contracts a parasitic infection or is exposed to radiation.


The way each disease tends to be diagnosed is also a key difference between kidney and bladder cancer. Kidney cancer is usually only discovered when a person is having diagnosis procedures, such as X-rays or computerized tomography (CT) scans, for other conditions. Bladder cancer is often diagnosed through the use of X-rays or CT scans as well, but usually the doctor has an idea that something may be wrong with the bladder, rather than being discovered when a different underlying condition is being examined, like may often be the case with kidney cancer.

Since the kidneys and the bladder are both involved with the removal of liquid waste from the body, they share many symptoms when cancer affects either of the organs. Cancer symptoms of either of these organs often involve the urine, such as discoloration or blood in the urine, pain while urinating, or changes in frequency. A difference between kidney and bladder cancer is often the symptoms that accompany the changes in urination. Kidney cancer will usually cause pain in the lower back, while bladder cancer may result in abdominal pain.

Since the organs are so close and involved in the same bodily processes, they tend to have the same treatment options once the symptoms are discovered to be the result of cancer, including surgery to remove cancerous growths, drugs to help stimulate the immune system to encourage it to fight the cancer cells, and chemotherapy to destroy cancer cells with the use of chemicals. The success of treatment options for either of the cancers will usually depend on how far the cancer cells have spread throughout the body and if they tend to recur after treatment.


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