There are two main types of kidney cancer, renal cell carcinoma (RCC) and transitional cell carcinoma.
Where the solid part of the kidney is affected this is called a renal cell carcinoma. If the hollow collecting system within the kidney is affected this is a transitional cell carcinoma. These cancers behave differently and are treated differently.
Renal cell carcinoma is the most common type of kidney cancer, accounting for 85% of all malignant tumours. The classical symptoms of this condition are blood in the urine, loin pain or generalized symptoms of fatigue, unexplained weight loss and fever. Nowadays most RCCs are found incidentally on imaging studies such as CT or ultrasound while investigating for other conditions. The cause of RCC is not known but there are hereditary diseases which can increase the risk of RCC.
The treatment of renal cell carcinoma is the surgical removal of the kidney and part of the ureter. In selected cases the part of the kidney bearing the renal cancer can be surgically removed - partial nephrectomy.
Transitional cell carcinoma accounts for 5% to 10% of all kidney tumours. These cancers are associated with cigarette smoking, phenacetin abuse and occupational exposure to carcinogenic agents. There is evidence that the frequency of this condition is increasing. The commonest presenting symptom is blood in the urine.
Transitional cell carcinomas of the collecting system of the kidney are similar to bladder tumours and require removal of the entire kidney and ureter down to the ureteric orifice where the ureter joins the bladder.
The outcomes of surgery for RCC and TCC kidney are different but in each case are directly related to the grade and extent of the cancer.
All kidney operations are usually done utilising keyhole techniques.