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Kidney Cancer

Kidney cancer starts in the cells of the kidney. The kidneys are located on either side of the spine and are responsible for filtering water and waste from the blood to make urine.Diagram of the internal structure of a kidney

There are several types of kidney cancer:

  • Renal cell carcinoma is the most common type of kidney cancer, which happens in cells that line the tubules.
  • Renal sarcoma and primary renal lymphoma are rarer.

To learn more about kidney cancer, visit the Canadian Cancer Society.

What’s on this Page

You will find Cancer Care Ontario information, resources and tools for:

  • patients, families and caregivers
  • anyone interested in kidney cancer
  • healthcare providers

You will also find links to other organizations that provide information related to kidney cancer.

Prevention

There are a few things you can do to lower your risk of kidney cancer:

Keep Your Blood Pressure Normal

Having high blood pressure (hypertension) increases your risk of kidney cancer. You can help to keep your blood pressure in a healthy range by:

  • eating a healthy diet that’s low in salt (sodium)
  • maintaining a healthy weight
  • exercising regularly
  • not smoking
  • drinking less alcohol (no more than 1 drink per day for women or 2 per day for men)
  • managing your stress

If you have been prescribed medication to lower your blood pressure, it’s important to take it regularly according to the instructions from your doctor or nurse practitioner.

Maintain a Healthy Weight

If you’re not at a healthy weight, losing even a small amount of weight can help lower the risk to your health. Small changes in your diet and physical activity may be enough to help you become healthier.

Do Not Smoke

Smoking is linked to many types of cancer and other diseases. There is no safe kind of tobacco product and no safe amount of smoking.

It’s never too late to benefit from becoming smoke-free. If you are already a non-smoker, keep yourself safe by avoiding exposure to other people’s tobacco smoke (second-hand smoke).

It may take several tries to quit smoking. If you’ve tried to quit in the past and have started smoking again, don’t give up. Each time you try to quit, you get closer to your goal of being smoke-free forever.

To find information on how to quit smoking visit:

Follow Health and Safety Guidelines at Work

Reduce your exposure to cancer-causing chemicals while at work by following health and safety guidelines. Being exposed to trichloroethylene (used as a metal degreaser) is a risk for kidney cancer. Other substances that may increase your risk are cadmium and cadmium compounds (used in batteries).

For more information on workplace exposures and kidney cancer, visit the Occupational Cancer Research Centre’s page on kidney cancer.

Diagnosis

During diagnosis, a person may need many tests to confirm the cancer. Waiting for test results to come back can be stressful. Talk to your doctor about managing stress during this difficult time.

For more information about diagnostic tests, you can visit the Canadian Cancer Society.

Treatment

Treatment for kidney cancer will depend on:

  • the type of cancer
  • the stage of cancer
  • which treatments and services the person chooses to have

Treatments may include:

  • surgery
  • drug therapy (chemotherapy)
  • radiation therapy
  • other treatment options
  • clinical drug trials

To learn more about types of kidney cancer treatment, visit the Canadian Cancer Society.

Drug Therapy Information

You can learn more about specific cancer drugs using our patient information sheets. These provide information about cancer drug therapies, including what they are used for and how to manage side effects. To find patient information sheets, go to the Drugs page.

You can also see About Chemotherapy for general information about cancer drug therapy.

Quitting Smoking Can Help Your Treatment

It’s never too late to quit smoking. Whether you are scheduled to have surgery, radiation treatment or chemotherapy, quitting smoking can help your treatment work better. It also can reduce the chance of your cancer coming back or getting another form of cancer. For more information and resources, see Benefits of Quitting Smoking for People with Cancer.

Managing Symptoms and Side Effects

People with cancer may have symptoms related to their cancer or as a side effect of treatment.

Our symptom management guides explain:

  • how to recognize symptoms
  • what to do and what not to do
  • when to contact the person’s healthcare team

The guides are available for patients and for healthcare providers. Each patient guide also comes with links to helpful resources like courses, books, videos and worksheets.

Our side effect information sheets offer tips for people going through side effects from chemotherapy treatment.

If you are a person with cancer, please remember that it’s important to discuss any symptoms or concerns with your healthcare team.

Clinical Trials

Clinical trials are scientific studies that test the safety and effectiveness of a medical treatment. Find clinical trials in Canada.

Palliative Care

Palliative care supports people with life-threatening illness and their families. The goal of this care is to relieve suffering so people can have the best possible quality of life. Palliative care should start when a person is diagnosed with a serious illness.

To learn more, go to the Palliative Care page.

After Treatment

When treatment ends, a person moves into a new phase of their cancer experience. For many patients, a lot of the after-treatment care will be given by healthcare providers in the community, like a family doctor or nurse practitioner.

Follow-Up Care

Follow-up care is the care given after active treatment for kidney cancer is over. It focuses on:

  • helping the person recover from the cancer and treatments
  • finding cancer early if it comes back

To learn more about follow-up care, visit the Canadian Cancer Society.

Managing Ongoing Symptoms

A person may have symptoms from cancer for months or years after treatment has ended. These are called long-term effects or late effects.

If you have ongoing symptoms after being treated for cancer, you can find information on how to manage them in our Symptom and Side Effect Management guides.

To better understand the late or long-term effects of cancer treatment, visit the Canadian Cancer Society for a helpful overview.

End-of-Life Care

Each person has a different experience during their final months and days of life. Their symptoms may change as their illness continues, and their needs for information and support will be unique. Family members will also have questions, concerns and needs of their own.

If you are helping a family member through their final months of life, talk to your healthcare team about your questions and concerns as they come up. They can give you information and resources to support you and your family, and help you make decisions and plan for end-of-life care.

For more information, go to the Palliative Care page.

Facts

  • In 2012, there were 2,079 cases of kidney cancer diagnosed in Ontario, making it the 11th most common cancer. There were also 556 deaths from kidney cancer, making it the 14th leading cause of cancer death.
  • Since the early 1980s, the rate of new cases of kidney cancer has increased in both men and women; however, the increase has been greater for men. 
  • People diagnosed with kidney cancer are 69% as likely to survive for 5 years after diagnosis compared to similar people in the general population