Kidney Cancer Awareness Month: Let’s Talk Risk Factors, Testing, and Support

March 20, 2021
A smiling elderly woman stands outside her house on a breezy day


March is Kidney Cancer Awareness Month. Kidney cancer affects the kidneys, which resemble the shape of a kidney bean and are about the size of a fist. They are located above your waist—one is on the right side of your spine and the other is on the left. The most common type of kidney cancer is renal cell carcinoma (RCC), which is seen in 9 out of 10 people with kidney cancer.

A diagram displays the location of the kidneys in the human body

Those at highest risk are men and women who have either inherited a disease that increases the risk of kidney cancer or who have parents or siblings who have had kidney cancer. Other risk factors may include:

  • being overweight
  • having high blood pressure
  • being on dialysis 
  • smoking
  • having a job that exposes you to asbestos, cadmium, and certain other chemicals

Keep in mind that more than half of people who are diagnosed with kidney cancer don’t have any symptoms.


Testing for Kidney Cancer

If you have health concerns that could be a sign of kidney cancer, your doctor will ask you to have some tests done. These tests could include:

  • urine tests
  • blood tests
  • imaging tests to get pictures of your kidneys

After your test results come back, and if a tumor is found, you may need to have a biopsy to remove a small piece of your kidney tumor to check for cancer cells. If you have cancer, you will likely need to have surgery to remove the tumor along with part or all of that kidney.


Kidney Cancer Resources and Support

If you are living with kidney cancer or are a caregiver to someone with kidney cancer, the Cancer Support Community offers a variety of resources to help ease the burden of your journey.

Whatever stage you’re at on your cancer journey, we also encourage you to participate in our Cancer Experience Registry. This online survey helps us understand the emotional, social, and financial issues that people with cancer and their caregivers face. We then use this information to improve our cancer support services and advocate for the importance of support services to policymakers and the public. By giving 20-40 minutes of your time, you can help us ensure that no one faces cancer alone.