Stages

If kidney cancer is diagnosed, the doctor needs to know the stage, or extent, of the disease to plan the best treatment. Staging is a careful attempt to find out whether the cancer has spread, and if so, to what parts of the body.

The Spreading of Cancer

There are three ways that cancer spreads in the body:

Through tissue. Cancer invades the surrounding normal tissue.

Through the lymph system. Cancer invades the lymph system and travels through the lymph vessels to other places in the body.

Through the blood. Cancer invades the veins and capillaries and travels through the blood to other places in the body.

When cancer cells break away from the primary tumor and travel through the lymph or blood to other places in the body, another, or secondary tumor, may form. This process is called metastasis. The secondary, or metastatic, tumor is the same type of cancer as the primary tumor. For example, if kidney cancer spreads to the bones, the cancer cells in the bones are actually kidney cancer cells. The disease is metastatic renal cancer, not bone cancer.

Stages of Renal Cancer

Stage I is an early stage of kidney cancer. The tumor measures up to 2 3/4 inches (7 centimeters). It is no bigger than a tennis ball. The cancer cells are found only in the kidney.

Stage II is also an early stage of kidney cancer, but the tumor measures more than 2 3/4 inches. The cancer cells are found only in the kidney.

Stage III is one of the following:

The tumor does not extend beyond the kidney, but cancer cells have spread through the lymphatic system to one nearby lymph node or the tumor has invaded the adrenal gland or the layers of fat and fibrous tissue that surround the kidney, but cancer cells have not spread beyond the fibrous tissue.

Cancer cells may be found in one nearby lymph node or the cancer cells have spread from the kidney to a nearby large blood vessel. Cancer cells may be found in one nearby lymph node.

Stage IV is one of the following:

The tumor extends beyond the fibrous tissue that surrounds the kidney or cancer cells are found in more than one nearby lymph node or the cancer has spread to other places in the body such as the lungs.

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