Myths and Facts About Kidney Cancer

March 8, 2011
Lisa Schulmeister

How informed are you about this relatively uncommon cancer?

In keeping with “March is Kidney Month,” test your knowledge of kidney cancer. Are the following statements myths or facts about kidney cancer?

Renal cell carcinoma is the only type of kidney cancer that can occur. Myth: The most common type of kidney cancer is renal cell carcinoma; however, less common types of kidney cancer are transitional cell carcinoma that affects the ureters but begins in the kidneys, and Wilms’ tumor of the kidney that can occur in children.

People with Von Hippel-Lindau syndrome are at higher risk for developing kidney cancer. Fact: Von Hippel-Lindau (VHL) syndrome, a rare familial disease caused by an abnormal VHL gene, increases a person’s risk of developing kidney cancer. The gene can also cause cysts or tumors to develop in the eyes, brain, and other body parts. Family members of patients with VHL who have kidney cancer can be tested to determine if they have the abnormal VHL gene, and if they do, can work with their healthcare providers to detect kidney cancer and VHL-related cysts/tumors before symptoms develop.

Blood in the urine is a sure sign of kidney cancer. Myth: While blood-colored, rusty, or deep red urine is a symptom of kidney cancer, red-appearing urine may also be a sign of non-cancerous disorders, such as a urinary tract infection. Red-tinged urine should never be ignored; it should be promptly evaluated by a healthcare provider. Other signs and symptoms of kidney cancer include persistent flank pain, lumps or masses in abdominal tissue, fatigue, fever, and weight loss.