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NCCN Guidelines for Patients



Kidney Cancer, Version 1.2017

How does kidney cancer


Cancer cells act differently than normal cells in three

key ways. First, cancer cells grow without control.

Unlike normal cells, cancer cells make new cells that

aren’t needed and don’t die when they should. The

cancer cells build up to form a primary tumor.

Second, cancer cells can grow into (invade) other

tissues. Normal cells don’t do this. Over time, the

primary tumor can grow large and invade tissues

outside the kidney. It may invade nearby tissues like

surrounding fat, blood vessels, the adrenal gland,

and Gerota’s fascia.

Third, cancer cells don’t stay in one place as they

should. Unlike normal cells, cancer cells can spread

to other parts of the body. This process is called

metastasis. Cancer cells can break away from the

primary tumor and enter the bloodstream or lymph

vessels. They can travel through blood or lymph to

reach distant sites. The cancer cells can then form

new tumors in other parts of the body. The new

tumors are called metastatic tumors or metastases.

Kidney cancer tends to spread to distant sites

such as the lungs, lymph nodes, bones, liver, and

sometimes the brain. The uncontrolled growth and

spread of cancer cells makes cancer dangerous.

Cancer cells can replace or deform normal tissue

causing organs to stop working.

Spread through lymph

Lymph is a clear fluid that gives cells water and food. It

also has white blood cells that help fight germs. Lymph

travels throughout the body in a network of small tubes

like blood does. These small tubes are called lymph

vessels. Lymph nodes are small groups of special

disease-fighting cells. Lymph nodes filter lymph to

remove germs.

Figure 6

Lymph vessels and nodes

Lymph nodes and vessels are found

throughout the body. A lymph node is a

small group of special disease-fighting cells.

Lymph nodes are connected to each other

by a network of small tubes called lymph


Illustration Copyright © 2017 Nucleus Medical Media, All rights reserved.


Kidney cancer basics

How does kidney cancer spread?