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Kidney Cancer


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Kidney (or renal) cancer originates in the kidneys — two bean-shaped organs around the size of a human fist. Kidneys are behind your abdominal organs. There is one on each side of your spine. About 62,700 new cases of kidney cancer occur annually in the U.S.

Depending on the extent of disease, a single therapy or combination of treatments will manage your kidney cancer. As a national academic medical center, Sylvester offers you leading-edge treatments including kidney-sparing surgery, laparoscopic and robotic surgery, immunotherapy, cryoablation and radiofrequency ablation.

We may also recommend "active surveillance" if you have a slow-growing kidney cancer. This means we can spare you unnecessary treatment by following you carefully, and waiting until your cancer is a true risk, based on your case.

Types of Kidney Cancer

  • Renal cell cancer: Found in the lining of tubules in the kidney. Renal cells make liquid urine. Renal cell cancer accounts for about 80% of kidney cancers. Renal cell cancer is the most common name for kidney cancer.
  • Transitional cell cancer of the ureter and renal pelvis: Malignant cells form in the renal pelvis (where ureters connect) or in the ureters. Ureters are the long tubes that connect the kidneys to the bladder. This type of cancer accounts for only 7% of all kidney tumors.
  • Wilms tumors: These are the most common kidney cancers in children.

Why Choose Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center?

Sylvester is an NCI-designated cancer center. The National Cancer Institute has recognized Sylvester for its outstanding work conducting research in its laboratories, treating patients in its clinics and hospitals, and reaching out to medically underserved communities with innovative prevention strategies.

Advanced radiation therapy options like RapidArc®, offering intensity modulated external radiation therapy (IMRT). Our leading-edge technology offers more efficient and effective treatments, shorter treatment times, pinpoint accuracy in the targeting of tumors, and less damage to surrounding healthy tissue.

More cancer clinical trials than any other South Florida hospital. If appropriate for your cancer and stage, our clinical trials provide you with the very newest ways to treat and potentially cure your cancer. Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center is a leader in early-phase clinical trials for cancers of the kidney.

One of only six designated Cancer Centers of Excellence in Florida. We treat cancer, and only cancer, giving you the best potential outcomes. The likelihood of surviving cancer after five years at a dedicated cancer center is 17 percent higher than at other hospitals.

Multidisciplinary care teams with nationally recognized expertise. Collaboration saves lives. Your care team is made up of experts in your exact type of cancer, and every single aspect of it.

High-tech imaging expertise using the most advanced technology available. This allows us to distinguish between normal and abnormal findings, providing you with an accurate diagnosis. We develop a personalized treatment plan for you.

Access to innovative minimally invasive cancer surgery. Our flagship hospital, UHealth Towers, performs one of the highest volumes of robotic surgeries in the southeast region, providing patients access to innovative, cutting-edge surgery by the most experienced providers.

A top-ranked program for kidney and bladder cancer treatment. We offer advanced care for urologic cancers and are ranked among the top five kidney and bladder cancer programs in the country. Our urologists are dedicated to identifying cancer early so we can provide more effective treatment. We were the first — and only — medical center in South Florida to use enhanced Blue Light Cystoscopy with Cysview imaging technology to detect and identify bladder cancer. 

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Kidney cancer treatment is based on the exact type of kidney cancer diagnosed, your overall health and medical history, and the extent of the disease. You have the services of our multidisciplinary team of cancer specialists who will work together to develop a comprehensive treatment plan for you. A single or combination therapy will manage your kidney cancer.

Treatments for kidney cancers include:

  • Partial Nephrectomy

    This surgery removes just the tumor within the kidney and some of the tissue around it. This procedure can prevent loss of kidney function when the other kidney is damaged (or if it has already been removed).

  • Radical Nephrectomy

    This surgery removes the whole kidney, as well as the adrenal gland, surrounding tissue, and often the nearby lymph nodes. We often recommend it for larger or multiple kidney tumors. Specialists at Sylvester can typically do these laparoscopically and robotically with smaller incisions and shorter recovery time.

  • Nephroureterectomy

    This surgical technique helps in cases of transitional cell cancer of the renal pelvis and ureter. We remove the kidney, ureter, and bladder cuff. This procedure can also be done robotically with a high degree of accuracy.

  • Segmental Resection of the Ureter

    Also for transitional cell cancer of the renal pelvis and ureter, this procedure removes the part of the ureter that is cancerous and some of the healthy tissue surrounding it. The ends of the ureter are re-attached. This treatment is used in superficial cases when the cancer is only in the lower third of the ureter, near the bladder.

  • Radiofrequency (RF) Ablation and Cryoablation (Freezing)

    Very high or low temperatures can be used in a minimally invasive fashion to kill cancer cells without surgery.

  • Arterial Embolization

    The tumor can be shrunk with arterial embolization if surgery is not possible. We create a small incision and place a catheter into the main blood vessel flowing to the kidney. Small pieces of a special gelatin are released to block the blood flow to the kidney. This prevents the cancer cells from getting oxygen and other substances they need to grow. It may also be used before an operation to make surgery easier.

  • External Radiation Therapy

    This technique sends high levels of radiation precisely and directly to the cancer cells using a machine directed at the body. When compared with other cancers, kidney cancers are more resistant to radiation. Modern stereotactic radiation has been able to overcome this resistance. Delivering high doses of radiation in only a few treatments can result in improved tumor and pain control.

  • Chemotherapy

    This use of anticancer drugs to treat cancerous cells works, in most cases. Chemotherapy interferes with the cancer cell's ability to grow or reproduce. These drugs may be given into a vein or by mouth, in tablet form.

  • Biological Therapy

    Also called immunotherapy, this approach fights cancer by using material made by the body, or in a laboratory, to restore the body's natural defense against disease. Interferon and Interleukin are two examples of biological drugs used in the treatment of renal cell cancer.

  • Targeted Therapy

    Antiangiogenic agents enable treatment of advanced renal cell cancer. These keep blood vessels from forming in a tumor, causing the tumor to starve and stop growing or shrink. Monoclonal antibodies and kinase inhibitors are two specific examples of antiangiogenic agents that are used in the treatment of renal cell cancer.


In addition to a complete medical history and physical examination, procedures for diagnosing kidney cancer may include the following:

  • Ultrasound

    High-frequency sound waves along with a computer to create images of blood vessels, tissues, and organs. Ultrasounds are relied upon to view internal organs as they function, as well as to assess how blood flows through various vessels.

  • Computed Tomography (CT) Scan

    CT scans rely on a combination of X-rays along with computer technology to produce horizontal, or axial, images of pelvic organs. They are more detailed than general X-rays and check for abnormalities of the kidneys or other structures.

  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI)

    This type of scan combines the use of large magnets, radio waves, and a computer to produce elaborate images of organs and structures that are in the body.

  • Urine Tests

    • Urinalysis: Examines a urine sample, looking at both the color and content, such as protein, red and white blood cells and sugar.

    • Urine cytology: Examines a urine sample is examined under a microscope for abnormal cells.

  • Blood Chemistry Studies

    A blood sample is taken and then examined to measure the levels of certain substances released into the bloodstream by the kidneys. An amount that is unusually higher or lower than normal can be an indicator of kidney disease.

  • Liver Function Test

    A blood sample is examined for any unusual amounts of specific enzymes, which might indicate that cancer has spread to the liver.

  • Ureteroscopy

    A ureteroscope, a thin tube, is inserted through the urethra into the ureter, bladder, and renal pelvis. A tool may then be inserted through the ureteroscope to biopsy tissue samples that can be examined under a microscope, looking for signs of disease.

Accepted Insurances

Note: Health plans that are currently contracted with UHealth are listed below. However, please check with your insurance provider to verify that UHealth is part of your provider network.