Mecklenburg Radiology

Renal Cancer

Renal cell carcinoma is the name given to cancers of the kidneys, the organs that filter blood and produce urine. The kidneys are important due to their roles in filtering toxins from the blood and regulating blood pressure and calcium levels in the body. Renal cell carcinoma can affect both men and women. Many cases of renal cell carcinoma do not produce symptoms until the disease is advanced. When symptoms do occur, they include flank pain, blood in the urine (hematuria), or a lump in the abdomen. Renal cell cancer can spread, or metastasize, to the lungs, bones, lymph nodes, and the brain.

How do we diagnose Renal Cancer?

CT Scan
Most commonly, we use computed tomography, or CT scans, to diagnose and stage renal cell carcinoma. CT scanners use a series of x-rays and powerful computers to create 2 and 3-dimensional images of the body, including the kidneys.
PET/CT is a special technique used to stage kidney cancer and is particularly useful in patients with metastases. Positron emission tomography utilizes the body’s natural uptake of modified glucose (sugar) with a CT scan to show sites of disease.
Other Techniques:
Sometimes, magnetic resonance imaging and ultrasound can be used to aid in the diagnosis of renal cell carcinoma. Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) uses a powerful magnetic field to produce images of the kidneys and other soft tissues. MRI does not use or produce radiation and therefore is not associated with radiation risks or effects. Ultrasound also does not produce radiation and instead uses high frequency soundwaves to image the kidneys and surrounding structures with a high level of detail.

How do we treat Renal Cancer?

Renal cell carcinoma is usually treated by a multidisciplinary team of medical oncologists, surgeons, and radiologists. Most cases of renal cell carcinoma are treated by surgery, which usually requires removing part of or the entire involved kidney. In cases in which the cancer is very small or if it affects both kidneys, a minimally invasive non-surgical procedure called renal cryoablation can be performed by a radiologist. In renal cryoablation, a needle is placed into the tumor under CT guidance, and the tumor is frozen in order to kill it. This procedure is often an effective alternative to surgery in patients who are poor surgical candidates, have very small or multiple tumors, or who have poor kidney function.