Types

Kidney cancer can be classified into several different types based on the appearance of the cancer cells under a microscope (this is called the microscopic appearance or microscopy) and other genetic factors.

A kidney cancer may also be classified by its clinical or pathological stage. For example, before surgery the imaging of a particular group of lymph nodes may show that they are enlarged but a doctor may be uncertain as to whether the tumour is affecting them. The affected tissue may have to be removed during a biopsy or after surgical treatment for further testing under a microscope.

When staging is based on clinical assessment alone, it is referred to as the clinical stage. Microscopic examination of the affected tissue determines the pathological stage.

Different types of kidney cancer

Renal cell carcinomas account for around 85% of kidney cancers. These cancers begin to grow in the lining of one or both kidneys. Without treatment, this type of cancer can spread to other parts of your body.

Clear cell carcinoma is the most common form of renal cell carcinoma, accounting for about 80% of people with kidney cancer. When viewed under a microscope, the individual cells that make up clear cell renal cell carcinoma appear very pale or clear.

Papillary cell (chromophilic) carcinoma is the second most common type – about 10% to 15% of people have this form. These cancers form little finger-like projections (called papillae).

Chromophobic carcinoma is the third most common form of renal carcinoma is chromophobe RCC, accounting for about 5% of cases. Like clear cell carcinoma, the cells of these cancers are also pale, but are much larger and have certain other distinctive features.

Translocation carcinomas are a type of kidney cancer that can occur in children who have received chemotherapy for malignancy, bone marrow transplant preparation or autoimmune disorders.

Other (less common) rare types of kidney cancer include:

Renal sarcoma is a rare type of kidney cancer.
Transitional cell carcinoma starts in the join between the kidney and its ureter (the tube that drains urine from the kidney into the bladder).Kidney-Cancer-Support-Service-logo-300x297
Wilm’s tumour is a rare type of kidney cancer that affects children.

Kidney Cancer Support Service – 1800 454 363or email kidneycancer@kidney.org.au if you have questions about kidney cancer

You may wish to refer to and download our summary Kidney Cancer Fact Sheet or other Kidney Health Education Resources

Updated 12 December 2013