Clear cell renal cell carcinoma (ccRCC) occurs when cancer grows in the kidneys. Symptoms can include blood in urine, a lump in the side, pain, fever, and more.

The exact cause of ccRCC is unclear. However, in some cases, it may run in families. Certain factors, such as obesity or smoking cigarettes, may also increase a person’s risk.

Read on to learn more about the symptoms and causes of ccRCC. This article also discusses treatment options, how doctors diagnose the condition, and more.

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In some cases, ccRCC may not cause symptoms. When no symptoms occur, a doctor may only discover the cancer during an unrelated examination.

When they do occur, symptoms can include:

Other types of cancer and noncancerous, or benign, conditions can also cause these symptoms. A person can consider talking with a doctor if they experience one or more of these symptoms to determine the exact underlying cause.

Learn about the symptoms of different types of renal cell carcinoma.

Experts do not know the exact cause of ccRCC.

However, experts do know that certain factors can raise the risk of ccRCC, such as:

These are considered modifiable risk factors. Other risk factors of ccRCC that a person cannot change include:

It is best for a person to contact a doctor if they have concerns about the risk factors of ccRCC.

Is clear cell renal cell carcinoma hereditary?

According to the National Cancer Institute, ccRCC may be hereditary. The majority of cases that run in families occur in people living with a genetic condition known as Von Hippel-Lindau syndrome, but other genetic conditions and mutations can cause it to occur too.

Von Hippel-Lindau syndrome is a rare genetic condition that causes tumors and cysts to grow in different areas of the body, including the brain and kidneys. People who develop ccRCC have changes to their VHL gene.

Learn more about the causes and risk factors of kidney cancer.

Doctors may diagnose ccRCC during another examination or when a person has symptoms. Diagnosis often starts with a physical examination and a review of the person’s medical history.

If a doctor suspects a person may have an issue with their kidneys, they may order imaging tests such as:

These tests can be useful in identifying a tumor, determining its size, and whether the cancer has spread to other areas of the body.

When a doctor discovers a tumor or growth in the kidney, they need to take a biopsy to check whether it is ccRCC. To do this, a qualified healthcare professional typically inserts a needle into the tumor and extracts a few cells.

Doctors can then examine these cells under a microscope to determine whether they are cancerous. CcRCC gets its name from how the cells appear clear under a microscope.

A doctor may also order blood tests to check blood counts and for the presence of certain chemicals in the blood that could indicate an issue such as cancer is present.

Treatment for ccRCC can vary based on several factors, such as the tumor size, whether it has spread to other areas of the body, and a person’s overall health when they receive a diagnosis.

Some treatment approaches a doctor may recommend include:

  • Surgery: A surgeon can remove the tumor from the kidney. Surgery may not be a good option in cases where the cancer has spread.
  • Targeted therapy: Some medications specifically target changes in cancer cells that allow them to divide, grow, and spread. Examples of these medications include:
    • pazopanib
    • axitinib
    • cabozantinib
    • sorafenib
    • sunitinib
  • Radiation therapy: Radiation can kill cancer cells.
  • Immunotherapy: This treatment teaches the immune system to kill cancer cells.
  • Thermal ablation: Heat can destroy cancer cells.
  • Cryosurgery: Liquid nitrogen can freeze and destroy cancer cells.

A person’s doctor can recommend treatments based on their individual circumstances and answer any questions the person may have.

Learn more about kidney cancer treatments.

CcRCC is the most common form of kidney cancer. It accounts for about 80% of all cases in adults.

It accounts for about 2–6% of all kidney cancer cases in children and young adults.

A person’s outlook can vary based on several factors. These can include:

  • whether the cancer has spread
  • the location and size of the tumor
  • how successful surgical removal was

The 5-year survival rate, or the average number of people still alive 5 years following diagnosis, is 50–69% for localized tumors that have not spread, according to the National Cancer Institute.

The survival rate is about 10% in cases where the cancer spreads to other areas of the body.

“Survival rate” refers to the proportion of people still alive for a length of time after receiving a particular diagnosis. For example, a 5-year survival rate of 50% means that 50%, or half, of the people are still alive 5 years after receiving the diagnosis.

It is important to remember that these figures are estimates and based on the results of previous studies or treatments. A person can consult a healthcare professional about how their condition will affect them.

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While it may not be possible to fully prevent ccRCC, a person can take steps to reduce their risk.

Steps a person can take to reduce risk factors include:

  • avoiding smoking cigarettes
  • maintaining a moderate weight
  • managing blood pressure
  • avoiding the pain relief medication acetaminophen
  • avoiding exposure to certain chemicals, such as trichloroethylene

A doctor can provide more advice on reducing a person’s risk of ccRCC.

Here are some frequently asked questions about ccRCC.

What is the survival rate of clear cell renal cell carcinoma?

Doctors typically use a 5-year survival rate for ccRCC.

According to the National Cancer Institute, the 5-year survival rate is 50-69% for localized cancer and 10% for cancer that has spread to distant areas of the body.

It is important to remember that a person’s outlook depends on their individual circumstances. A person’s doctor can provide more accurate information about their condition.

How bad is clear cell renal cell carcinoma?

CcRCC is a potentially fatal form of cancer. However, a person’s overall survival and outlook can vary based on several factors, such as:

  • age
  • size of the tumor
  • location of the tumor
  • whether cancer has spread to other areas of the body
  • the cancer’s response to treatment

Early detection is generally best and can improve a person’s outlook. Doctors may be able to find the cancer early, but in some cases, they will not find it until it advances. This is because a person may not have any noticeable symptoms to begin with.

Experts generally only recommend early detection tests for people at higher risk, such as those living with certain genetic conditions.

How fast does clear cell renal cancer spread?

Renal tumors have a generally slow growth rate. In some cases, a doctor may recommend watchful waiting before surgically removing a tumor.

Clear cell renal cell carcinoma (ccRCC) is the most common form of kidney cancer in adults. It is generally slow growing and may or may not cause symptoms. When symptoms do occur, they can include bleeding, pain, fatigue, and more.

The exact cause is unclear. However, smoking, high blood pressure, and obesity may increase a person’s risk.

To diagnose ccRCC, a doctor may order imaging tests and a biopsy. Following diagnosis, they may recommend treatment options such as surgery, targeted therapy, and radiation therapy.