As Georgia’s largest and most comprehensive cancer program, Northside Hospital Cancer Institute (NHCI) is an experienced provider of cancer care for individuals diagnosed with kidney cancer.

What Is Kidney Cancer?

Kidney cancer is among the 10 most common cancers in both men and women.

Types of kidney cancer include:

  • Renal cell carcinoma (RCC), also called renal cell cancer or renal cell adenocarcinoma, is the most common form of kidney cancer. It starts in in the lining of very small tubes (tubules) in the kidney.
  • Transitional cell carcinoma (TCC), also called urothelial carcinoma, is cancer of the renal pelvis or ureter that forms in the kidney's pelvis or the tube (ureter) that carries urine from the kidney to the bladder.
  • Renal sarcoma, a rare type of kidney cancer, begins in the blood vessels or connective tissue of the kidney.

Symptoms of Kidney Cancer

Most of the time, early kidney cancers do not usually cause any signs or symptoms. As the cancer grows, some possible signs and symptoms of kidney cancer may include:

Kidney Cancer Risk Factors

According to the American Cancer Society, almost 65,000 people were diagnosed with kidney cancer in the U.S. during 2018. The lifetime risk for developing kidney cancer is about 1 in 63 (1.6%). This risk is higher in men than in women. The average age at diagnosis is 64 and is not common in people younger than 45.

The following may increase an individual’s risk of developing kidney cancer:

  • Smoking
  • Obesity
  • Workplace exposure to substances such as cadmium (a type of metal), some herbicides, and organic solvents, particularly trichloroethylene
  • Family history of kidney cancer
  • High blood pressure
  • Advanced kidney disease, especially those needing dialysis
  • Long-term use of certain medicines, such as pain pills or water pills (diuretics)
  • Genetic and hereditary factors (von Hippel-Lindau disease, hereditary papillary renal cell carcinoma, hereditary leiomyoma-renal cell carcinoma, Birt-Hogg-Dube (BHD) syndrome, familial renal cancer, Cowden syndrome, tuberous sclerosis, and hereditary renal oncocytoma)

As part of our comprehensive approach to cancer prevention and education, Northside Hospital offers Built To Quit, a smoking and tobacco cessation program offering resources to help individuals quit smoking and stop using other tobacco products. For additional information, please call 404-780-7653, email or register for a class online.

2019 Built to Quit
Class Schedule (English)
2019 Built to Quit
Class Schedule (Spanish)

Cancer Genetics Program

Northside Hospital’s Cancer Genetics Program is available to patients interested in genetic counseling and testing due to strong personal or family histories of certain genetic factors that can cause kidney cancer. Our team of certified genetic counselors helps patients assess, understand and reduce the risk of developing certain types of genetically influenced cancer such as kidney cancer. For additional information, please call 404-851-6284 or email

Kidney Cancer Screening & Diagnosis


Currently, for people with an average risk of developing kidney cancer, there are no recommended screening tests since no test has been shown to lower the overall risk of dying from kidney cancer.

For people with an increased risk of developing kidney cancer, such as inherited conditions listed in Kidney Cancer Risk Factors, many physicians recommend regular imaging tests such as CT, MRI, or ultrasound scans to look for kidney tumors. Kidney cancers that are found early can often be cured.


Kidney cancer incidence rates appear to have stabilized since the mid-2000s following decades of increase, in part due to a rise in cancer detection because of the increased use of medical imaging

Northside’s Prostate and Urologic Cancer Program uses the following tests and procedures to diagnose kidney cancer after a physical examination has been completed:

Team of Kidney Cancer Specialists

The strength of Northside Hospital Cancer Institute’s Prostate and Urologic Cancer Program is our multidisciplinary team of dedicated, specially trained kidney cancer specialists who work together to provide individualized medical care for each patient. Our Program offers a comprehensive scope of medical services, the latest technology, leading-edge clinical research, and compassionate cancer care.

At Northside Hospital Cancer Institute, cancer specialists work together to provide the best care possible to patients diagnosed with kidney cancer.

Our multidisciplinary cancer care team consists of:

  • Urologists
  • Radiation oncologists
  • Medical oncologists
  • Radiologists
  • Pathologists
  • Certified genetic counselors
  • Oncology nurse navigators
  • Clinical research nurses

Rollover the graphic for more information

Multidisciplinary 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11

Our team of kidney cancer experts meets regularly during cancer conferences to prospectively discuss kidney cancer patients and agree upon evidence-based Kidney Cancer Treatment Options for each patient. Cancer conferences provide our medical specialists with a forum to discuss each kidney cancer case, review national treatment guidelines, and agree upon a personalized plan of care while considering each patient’s unique life circumstances.

Kidney Cancer Treatment Options

The Northside Hospital Cancer Institute’s Prostate and Urologic Cancer Program is committed to offering the best treatment options available to kidney cancer patients and ensuring access to care is as convenient as possible. We treat kidney cancer with the latest treatments and technology, including personalized cancer therapies based on the kidney cancer’s specific genetic makeup. Northside Hospital Cancer Institute kidney cancer specialists and supportive care team members work together to ensure all patients receive a personalized, evidence-based treatment plan specific to their cancer needs.

Expand the content below to learn more about each kidney cancer treatment option.

For some people with small kidney tumors (less than 4 centimeters or about 1½ inches), a doctor may recommend an approach known as active surveillance or watchful waiting. This option means that the patient does not initially receive treatment and the doctor monitors the kidney tumor carefully to see if it grows.

Surgery is typically a part of the treatment plan for most patients with kidney cancers. The type of surgery recommended for kidney cancer is dependent upon the stage and location of the cancer, as well as a patient’s overall health. Surgery options may include removal of the cancer along with some of the surrounding kidney tissue (partial nephrectomy) or the removal of the entire kidney (radical nephrectomy).

When surgery is not an option due to a patient’s overall health, other treatment options can sometimes be used to destroy kidney tumors. These other treatment options include:

  • Cryotherapy (cryoablation) – A procedure that uses very cold temperatures to freeze and destroy the tumor.
  • Radiofrequency ablation (RFA) – A procedure that uses high-energy radio waves to heat the tumor.
  • Arterial embolization – A procedure used to block the artery that feeds the kidney that has the tumor.

Chemotherapy or “chemo” uses medication to destroy cancer cells by stopping growth. Once the drug enters the bloodstream it can reach most areas of the body, making this treatment option potentially useful for cancer that has spread (metastasized) beyond the kidney.

At Northside's infusion centers, chemotherapy is provided on an outpatient basis by registered nurses who are certified in chemotherapy administration.

Targeted therapies are designed to only treat the cancer cells and minimize damage to normal, healthy cells. In order to become cancer cells, healthy cells must go through a process called carcinogenesis. Targeted therapy disrupts this process and the cellular changes necessary for development and growth.

Using targeted therapy to treat advanced kidney cancer may be able to shrink or slow the growth of the cancer.

Questions to ask your doctor about targeted therapy.

Immunotherapy, also called biological therapy, uses the body’s own immune system to treat kidney cancer. Immunotherapy for kidney cancer most often involves the use of cytokines and immune checkpoint inhibitors.

Questions to ask your doctor about immunotherapy.

Learn more about our Immunotherapy Program

Radiation therapy, also called radiation oncology, uses high-energy radiation to kill cancer cells. Radiation therapy may be recommended as a treatment option for kidney cancer for certain patients depending on their specific cancer diagnosis. External beam radiation therapy (EBRT) is the type or radiation therapy most often used to treat kidney cancer and delivers radiation from a source outside of the body to cancer cells inside the body.

Learn more about our radiation therapy services.

Clinical trials are studies that involve people and are a critical part of cancer research. These studies test new ways to prevent, detect, diagnose or treat many kinds of cancer. Patients that take part in kidney cancer clinical trials have an opportunity to contribute to scientists’ knowledge about cancer and to help in the development of improved cancer treatments. They also receive state-of-the-art care from cancer experts.

Learn more about our Cancer Research Program and search for open clinical trials.

Learn more about NHCI Cancer Treatment Options

Kidney Cancer Support & Survivorship

Kidney cancer treatment and recovery can be overwhelming, which is why we have oncology nurse navigators to guide you every step of your cancer journey. Northside Hospital Cancer Institute’s nurse navigators are registered nurses with extensive knowledge and training in oncology, available to help support patients after their cancer diagnosis and throughout treatment, educating and supporting cancer patients to make informed decisions about their care.

Support provided by oncology nurse navigators includes:

  • Clinical information and education on kidney cancer.
  • Answering questions about diagnosis, treatments and any side effects experienced.
  • Facilitating communication between the patient and their care team.
  • Access to emotional and psychological support, including referrals to the right counseling services and support groups.
  • Monitoring each patient’s health and overall cancer treatment progress.

To learn more about oncology patient navigation or to speak with an oncology nurse navigator, please call 404-300-2800 or email

Ongoing support is crucial when facing kidney cancer and afterward. Northside Hospital Cancer Institute provides a full range of support and survivorship programs and services to address the unique needs of each kidney cancer patient.

Learn more about Cancer Support & Survivorship programs and services available at Northside Hospital Cancer Institute.