Once kidney cancer is diagnosed, the next step is to determine its stage.
Staging is a system used to describe the size, aggressiveness and spread of a cancer which helps to guide treatment and can help predict the long-term outlook. Certain imaging tests, including CT and MRI scans, can help determine staging. Blood tests will also be done to evaluate your overall health and to detect whether the cancer has spread to certain organs. A staging system is a standardized way in which the cancer care team describes the extent of the cancer.
Your specialist will determine the “stage” of your kidney cancer and this is based on:
- the size of the tumour
- spread of the cancer to the nearby lymph nodes
- if there are signs of cancer in other organs (liver, lung, bone)
Depending on the stage of the disease (i.e. how big the tumour is, or whether it has spread), the best decision about treatment and the likely outcomes can be discussed with you. The four stages below are based on the Robson system, which is one of the methods for ‘staging’ kidney cancer in Australia. The survival rates quoted are general guidelines only, and should be discussed further with your doctor.
Stage 1: The cancer is only within the kidney, and has not spread. The cancer is less than 7cm in size. This stage has the best long-term survival and is most likely to be cured with surgery. The five year survival rate is almost 90%.
Stage 2: The cancer has spread outside of the kidney to the surrounding fat, or to the adrenal gland, which sits on top of the kidney. The caner is bigger than 7cm. This stage also has a high rate of survival and surgery is a good treatment option. The five year survival rate is more than 75%.
Stage 3: The cancer may be of any size, but it extends outside the capsule of the kidney. Stage 3 includes Stage 3A disease where the cancer spreads to the blood vessels (vascular). There is a 5 year survival rate of close to 65% for this cancer. In Stage 3B disease the cancer spreads to the lymph nodes. There 5 year survival rate for Stage 3B is 25-30%.
Stage 4: The cancer of the kidney may be of any size. However, in this stage the tumour has spread outside the kidney to other organs (in addition to, or other than the adrenal gland on the same side) and so has the lowest rate of long-term survival because. The 5 year survival rate is 10%.
Kidney Cancer Support Service – 1800 454 363 – or email firstname.lastname@example.org if you have questions about kidney cancer
Updated 24 October 2014