Renal cell carcinoma (RCC) is a kidney cancer that originates in the lining of the proximal convoluted tubule, a part of the very small tubes in the kidney that transport primary urine. RCC is the most common type of kidney cancer in adults, responsible for approximately 90–95% of cases.
Initial treatment is most commonly either partial or complete removal of the affected kidney(s). Where the cancer has not metastasised (spread to other organs) or burrowed deeper into the tissues of the kidney, the 5-year survival rate is 65–90%, but this is lowered considerably when the cancer has spread.
The body is remarkably good at hiding the symptoms and as a result people with RCC often have advanced disease by the time it is discovered. The initial symptoms of RCC often include blood in the urine (occurring in 40% of affected persons at the time they first seek medical attention), flank pain (40%), a mass in the abdomen or flank (25%), weight loss (33%), fever (20%), high blood pressure (20%), night sweats and generally feeling unwell. When RCC metastasises, it most commonly spreads to the lymph nodes, lungs, liver, adrenal glands, brain or bones. Immunotherapy and targeted therapy have improved the outlook for metastatic RCC.
RCC is also associated with a number of paraneoplastic syndromes (PNS) which are conditions caused by either the hormones produced by the tumour or by the body’s attack on the tumour and are present in about 20% of those with RCC. These syndromes most commonly affect tissues which have not been invaded by the cancer. The most common PNSs seen in people with RCC are: high blood calcium levels, polycythaemia (the opposite of anemia, due to an overproduction of the hormone erythropoietin), thrombocytosis (too many platelets in the blood, leading to an increased tendency for blood clotting and bleeds) and secondary amyloidosis.
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