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What is renal cell cancer?

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Quick Answer

Renal cell cancer develops in the kidney tubules and is the most common form of kidney cancer in adults, explains eMedicineHealth. It occurs when normal kidney cells undergo a transformation and grow out of control. As the cancer cells multiply they form an abnormal mass called a malignant tumor.

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The incidence of renal cell cancer increases in adults between 50 and 70 years of age and is higher in men than women, according to The Merck Manual Professional Edition. Risk factors include smoking, obesity, phenacetin use, cystic disease in dialysis patients and certain familial disorders. Other risk factors include exposure to radiopaque dyes, asbestos, cadmium, and leather tanning and petroleum products.

Most symptoms of renal cell cancer appear late in the course of the disease when the tumor grows and presses on the surrounding tissues, states eMedicineHealth. Symptoms include blood in the urine, flank pain, sensation of a mass, weight loss and fatigue. Many people also experience a loss of appetite, fever, anemia, night sweats and malaise. Some tumors release cytokines into the blood stream and cause paraneoplastic syndromes. Symptoms include hypertension, hypercalcemia, polycythemia, muscle weakness and neuropathy. Others include amyloidosis and liver disorders.

The standard treatment for localized renal cell cancer is a radical nephrectomy, explains The Merck Manual Professional Edition. During this procedure the surgeon removes the affected kidney, adrenal gland, perirenal fat and the Gerota fascia.

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