Find Information About:

Drugs & Supplements

Get information and reviews on prescription drugs, over-the-counter medications, vitamins, and supplements. Search by name or medical condition.

Pill Identifier

Pill Identifier

Having trouble identifying your pills?

Enter the shape, color, or imprint of your prescription or OTC drug. Our pill identification tool will display pictures that you can compare to your pill.

Get Started

My Medicine

Save your medicine, check interactions, sign up for FDA alerts, create family profiles and more.

Get Started

WebMD Health Experts and Community

Talk to health experts and other people like you in WebMD's Communities. It's a safe forum where you can create or participate in support groups and discussions about health topics that interest you.

  • Second Opinion

    Second Opinion

    Read expert perspectives on popular health topics.

  • Community


    Connect with people like you, and get expert guidance on living a healthy life.

Got a health question? Get answers provided by leading organizations, doctors, and experts.

Get Answers

Sign up to receive WebMD's award-winning content delivered to your inbox.

Sign Up

Cancer Health Center

Font Size

Kidney (Renal Cell) Cancer - Topic Overview

Kidney cancer starts when abnormal cells grow out of control in one or both kidneys. The kidneys camera.gif are two bean-shaped organs located on either side of the spine, just below the ribs. They filter wastes from the blood and help balance water, salt, and mineral levels in the blood.

Another name for kidney cancer is renal cancer. "Renal" means having to do with the kidney.

This topic is about renal cell carcinoma, the most common type of kidney cancer. About 8 or 9 out of 10 people with kidney cancer have this type.1, 2

Kidney cancer that is found early often can be successfully treated. But when it isn't found early, the cancer may spread, or metastasize, to other parts of the body, such as the lymph nodes, the lungs, the bones, or the liver.

Experts aren't sure what causes kidney cancer. But there are certain things that make you more likely to get this cancer. Your risk is higher if you:

  • Smoke. Experts estimate that around 24 to 30 out of 100 cases of kidney cancer are directly related to smoking.2
  • Have a job that regularly exposes you to certain chemicals or minerals, such as asbestos, gasoline, and cadmium (used in manufacturing).
  • Use too much pain medicine for a long time.
  • Have certain inherited conditions, such as von Hippel-Lindau disease.

Kidney cancer doesn't usually cause symptoms at first. It's often discovered by imaging tests-tests that produce pictures of the inside of the body-that are done for other reasons.

After it begins to spread, kidney cancer may cause one or more of these symptoms:

  • Blood in the urine.
  • A lump that can be felt in the lower back or belly.
  • Pain in the side or the back.

If your symptoms make your doctor think that you may have kidney cancer, he or she will order imaging tests. The pictures from these tests usually show whether there is cancer in your kidney and how far it may have spread.

    Next Article:

    Today on WebMD

    Colorectal cancer cells
    New! I AM Not Cancer Facebook Group
    Lung cancer xray
    See it in pictures, plus read the facts.
    sauteed cherry tomatoes
    Fight cancer one plate at a time.
    Ovarian cancer illustration
    Real Cancer Perspectives
    Jennifer Goodman Linn self-portrait
    what is your cancer risk
    colorectal cancer treatment advances
    breast cancer overview slideshow
    prostate cancer overview
    lung cancer overview slideshow
    ovarian cancer overview slideshow
    Actor Michael Douglas