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Kidney Cancer: Newly Diagnosed

Being told you have kidney cancer can be scary, and you may have many questions. But you have people on your health care team to help.

Older man and doctor in an exam room

What is kidney cancer?

Kidney cancer is a cancer that starts in the kidneys. Like most types of cancer, it begins small and grows over time. Cancer cells may form a tumor that is limited to the kidney. Or some cells may break away from the tumor and spread to other parts of the body. This is called metastasis. When kidney cancer spreads, it is known as metastatic kidney cancer. For example, if it spreads to the liver, the cancer cells there are still kidney cancer cells, they are not liver cancer. This would be called kidney cancer that has metastasized to the liver. If kidney cancer spreads, it tends to go to the lymph nodes, lungs, bones, or liver. In some cases, kidney cancer can spread to the brain.

People with kidney cancer now have more treatment choices and more hope for survival than ever before. Health care providers keep finding new treatments for this cancer and ways to help people with it have a better life.

Coping with fear

It’s normal to feel afraid. Learning about your cancer and about the treatment options you have can make you feel less afraid. This also helps you work with your health care team and make the best choices for your treatment. You can also ask to speak with a counselor.

Working with your health care team

Your health care team will likely include:

  • Urologist. This is a health care provider who treats diseases of the kidney and urinary tract.

  • Medical oncologist. This is a health care provider who specializes in treating cancer with chemotherapy and other medicines. 

  • Radiation oncologist. This is a health care provider who specializes in treating cancer with radiation.

They will answer any questions you may have. They’ll help you through each of the steps you’ll take before, during, and after treatment. Your team will let you know what tests you need and the results of those tests. They’ll guide you in making treatment decisions and help prepare you and your loved ones for what’s ahead.

Learning about treatment options

To decide the best course of treatment for you, your health care team needs to know as much as they can about your cancer. This may involve getting some tests and working with more than one doctor or other type of health care professional. And you may decide that you want to get a second opinion to help you choose a treatment.

Getting support

Coping with cancer can be very stressful. Talk with your health care team about seeing a counselor. They can refer you to someone who can help. You can also visit support groups to talk with other people coping with cancer. Ask your health care team about local support groups.