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What is kidney cancer?
Kidney cancer is when kidney cancer cells change and grow in an abnormal way. A group of these cancer cells can form a tumour. Sometimes more than one tumour can develop.
About 650 people are diagnosed with kidney cancer each year in Ireland.
Usually only one kidney is affected. As the cancer grows it can affect how your kidney works and can cause problems. In most cases, the cancer is found before it has spread to other organs.
Kidneys: what are they, and what do they do?
The kidneys are small bean-shaped organs that lie at the back of your body, just below your ribcage, one on each side. There are normally two kidneys in your body, but you can survive with one. On top of each kidney is a tiny gland called the adrenal gland.
The kidneys filter your blood to remove waste products. These waste products are then made into urine.
The urine is carried from each kidney through a tube called a ureter to your bladder. Your bladder stores the urine until it is ready to leave your body - through another tube called the urethra.
Your kidneys make three important hormones:
- Erythropoietin tells your bone marrow to make more red blood cells.
- Renin controls your blood pressure.
- Calcitriol is a form of vitamin D that helps your bowel to absorb calcium from your food. This keeps your bones healthy.
The adrenal glands make hormones that are vital for living:
- Cortisol is a natural steroid involved in your response to stress and inflammation.
- Aldosterone controls your body’s water balance.
- Adrenaline and noradrenaline prepare your body for emergency situations. For example, by increasing your heart rate and raising your blood pressure.
Medical content updated from our 'Understanding kidney cancer' booklet (2022) reviewed by Mr Barry McGuire, Consultant Urological and Robotic Surgeon; Denise Murray, Urology Clinical Nurse Specialist.
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