Cancerous tumours of the kidney

A cancerous tumour of the kidney can grow into nearby tissue and destroy it. The tumour can also spread (metastasize) to other parts of the body. Cancerous tumours are also called malignant tumours. Different types of cancerous tumours can develop in different parts of the kidney.

Renal cell carcinoma

Renal cell carcinoma (RCC) is the most common type of kidney cancer. It starts in the lining of the tubules of the kidney.

Types of RCC

There are several types of RCC, including the following.

Clear cell RCC is the most common type of RCC. About 80% of all RCC are clear cell RCC. Under a microscope, the cancer cells in these tumours look very pale or clear.

Papillary RCC is the second most common type of RCC. The cancer cells in these tumours are shaped like little fingers. Papillary RCC is divided into 2 types. Type 1 is a low-grade tumour that does not spread very fast. Type 2 is a high-grade tumour that can spread quickly.

Chromophobe RCC has large, pale brown cancer cells that often look like a cobblestone road. Chromophobe RCC has a more favourable prognosis than other types of kidney cancer.

Unclassified RCCs are tumours that do not fit into any of the other categories of RCC. The cancer cells look different from any other type of RCC.

Rare kidney tumours

The following cancerous tumours of the kidney are rare:

  • collecting duct carcinoma
  • renal medullary carcinoma
  • multilocular cystic RCC

Other rare kidney tumours

The following are other rare cancerous tumours of the kidney.

Cancer of the renal pelvis starts in the cells that line the renal pelvis of the kidney, the ureters and the bladder. The type of cancer that develops in these cells is called urothelial carcinoma, or transitional cell carcinoma. Find out more about cancer of the renal pelvis.

Renal sarcomas start in the kidney’s connective tissues or blood vessels. Different types of renal sarcomas include leiomyosarcoma, angiosarcoma and rhabdomyosarcoma. Find out more about soft tissue sarcoma.

Primary renal lymphoma is a very rare tumour with a poor prognosis. The most common type is diffuse large B-cell lymphoma (DLBCL).

Wilms tumour is a type of kidney cancer usually diagnosed in children. It is very rare in adults. Find out more about Wilms tumour.

Expert review and references

  • American Cancer Society. What Is Kidney Cancer?. 2017: https://www.cancer.org/cancer/kidney-cancer/about/what-is-kidney-cancer.html.
  • American Society of Clinical Oncology. Kidney Cancer: Introduction. 2018: https://www.cancer.net/cancer-types/kidney-cancer/introduction.
  • DeVelasco G, Signoretti S, Rini BI, et al . Uncommon tumors of the kidney. Raghavan D, et al (eds.). Textbook of Uncommon Cancer. 5th ed. Wiley Blackwell; 2017: 4:19-40.
  • Lane BR, Canter DJ, Rin BL, et al . Cancer of the kidney. DeVita VT Jr, Lawrence TS, Rosenberg SA. Cancer: Principles and Practice of Oncology. 10th ed. Philadelphia: Wolters Kluwer Health/Lippincott Williams & Wilkins; 2015: 63:865-884.
  • Linehan WM, Schmidt LS . Molecular biology of kidney cancer. DeVita VT Jr, Lawrence TS, & Rosenberg SA. Cancer: Principles and Practice of Oncology. 10th ed. Philadelphia: Wolters Kluwer Health/Lippincott Williams & Wilkins; 2015.
  • National Cancer Institute. Renal Cell Cancer Treatment (PDQ®) Patient Version. 2018: https://www.cancer.gov/types/kidney/patient/kidney-treatment-pdq.
  • Reuter VE . Pathology of sporadic renal neoplasms. Scardino PT, Lineham WM, Zelefsky MJ & Vogelzang NJ (eds.). Comprehensive Textbook of Genitourinary Oncology. 4th ed. Philadelphia: Wolters Kluwer/Lippincott Williams & Wilkins; 2011: 39A: pp.652-62.
  • Sachdeva K. Medscape Reference: Renal Cell Carcinoma. 2018: https://emedicine.medscape.com/article/281340-overview.