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
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
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Kidney cancer basics
How does kidney cancer spread?