When lymphoma spreads to the kidneys, doctors may call it kidney lymphoma. Treatment for kidney lymphomas can depend on many factors, but chemotherapy is usually a first-line option.

Lymphoma is a type of cancer that begins in the immune system but can spread to other areas of the body. There are several types of lymphoma. Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma is the type that is most likely to spread to the kidneys.

This article will review kidney lymphoma, its symptoms, how doctors diagnose and treat it, and the outlook for those with this condition.

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In the earlier stage, kidney lymphoma is unlikely to cause symptoms. However, larger ones might. Some symptoms include:

People should note that several other medical conditions are likely to cause these symptoms, too. Still, if a person experiences any new symptoms or concerns about their health, they may consider contacting a doctor.

Doctors typically perform a series of tests to diagnose kidney lymphoma. These include:

Also, doctors may perform a cystoscopy. During this procedure, healthcare professionals pass a small tube with a camera through the urethra to look inside the bladder.

If a person receives a diagnosis of kidney lymphoma, additional tests may be necessary to check its size and whether the cancer has spread to areas of the body. This can include the following:

Receiving a cancer diagnosis can be overwhelming, and a person may feel anxious about what will happen next. Asking questions and discussing any concerns with a doctor may help alleviate some worries and help people understand their condition better.

Some helpful questions to ask include:

  • What is the stage of kidney lymphoma?
  • What does the stage mean in this case?
  • What types of treatment are available?
  • What are the side effects and risks of these treatment options?
  • Is kidney lymphoma common, and how do people usually handle the treatment?
  • What are the steps of my treatment, and what does each step look like?
  • Who else is on the team when I need additional help?
  • What impact can this diagnosis have on my daily routine?
  • Should I get a second opinion about the diagnosis or treatment?
  • What happens if the treatment is unsuccessful?

Most kidney lymphoma cases present with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma and have spread to other body areas or distant organs outside the kidneys. Less than 1% of kidney lymphomas remain within the kidneys.

Depending on the subtype of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, the 5-year survival rate may differ.

The following table outlines the 5-year relative survival rate for people with the most common type of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma — diffuse large B-cell. People should note that these numbers are not specific to kidney lymphoma:

Stage5-year relative survival rate
all stages combined65%

However, these numbers reflect the outlook of people with lymphoma between 2012 and 2018. These numbers do not consider people’s age and overall health when they receive their diagnosis. People may now have a better outlook as cancer treatments continuously improve.

The most appropriate treatment can vary depending on factors including:

  • cancer stage at the time of diagnosis
  • age
  • overall health

The treatment options for kidney lymphoma may include:

  • Chemotherapy: Generally, this is a first-line treatment for kidney lymphoma. Chemotherapy medications aim to kill cancer cells.
  • Radiation therapy: This treatment kills and shrinks cancer cells throughout the body.
  • Stem cell transplant (SCT): SCTs work by infusing donor stem cells into the bone marrow, where it generates new healthy blood cells.
  • Chimeric antigen receptor (CAR) T cell therapy: This newer treatment type uses a person’s immune system to help kill cancer cells.
  • Targeted therapy: This treatment uses drugs to identify and target specific cancer cells. An example is monoclonal antibody therapy, which uses laboratory-made molecules to directly or indirectly attach to cancer cells and destroy them.
  • Surgery: In some cases, doctors may recommend surgically removing part or all of the kidney.

Doctors may prescribe antibiotics to treat any infections that occur due to cancer.

Living with kidney lymphoma can be challenging. People may wish to seek help from a mental health professional with experience in treating cancer patients. They can help people cope with the emotions and stress that may accompany a kidney lymphoma diagnosis.

People may also benefit from focusing on the parts of their health that they can control. This may include:

Getting support can be extremely beneficial and may make someone feel less lonely.

People can rely on the support of their loved ones, friends, or community members after their diagnosis and during their treatment.

Several charities and organizations offer resources that people with kidney lymphoma can use to find emotional and financial support.

These may include:

  • The Patti Robinson Kaufmann First Connection Program: This program is for people who have received a diagnosis of leukemia or lymphoma. It helps people connect with a peer with a similar diagnosis.
  • Leukemia & Lymphoma Society: People with kidney lymphoma can use this locator to find a local group for support and resources in their area.
  • American Cancer Society (ACS): People with lymphoma can join their peer support community at the Cancer Survivors Network.

Kidney lymphoma is typically linked to non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma spreading to the kidneys. The outlook can vary depending on the subtype of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma and other factors.

A doctor will be able to advise on the best treatment option on an individual basis. Typically, doctors will recommend chemotherapy and targeted therapy. Sometimes, people may need to receive a stem cell transplant or undergo surgery.

Living with kidney lymphoma can be challenging. A person may wish to join a support group to help them through their diagnosis and treatment journey.