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If I Have Cancer in One Kidney, What Are the Chances of It Spreading to the Other One?

Like many forms of cancer, kidney cancer (renal cell carcinoma) can potentially spread to other parts of the body, such as lymph nodes, bones and other organs. When this occurs, the condition is known as metastatic renal cell carcinoma. Because the kidneys are not located right next to each other, there is generally a low risk of cancerous cells spreading from one kidney to the other.

How does kidney cancer spread?

The likelihood that kidney cancer will spread to other organs and tissues depends on the size and growth rate of the tumor, as well as other individual factors. Tumors that are large or fast-growing tend to be more likely to spread to other parts of the body.

In general, cancerous cells can spread from a kidney to another area of the body in one of three ways:

  • By proximity – As a tumor grows, its cells can invade surrounding tissues.
  • Through the lymphatic system – Cancerous cells can break away from a kidney tumor and enter the lymphatic system, which is a network of lymph nodes that are located throughout the body. The lymph nodes, which filter bodily fluids to fight off infections, can also allow cancerous cells to circulate throughout the body, ultimately accumulating and forming tumors in distant organs and tissues.
  • Via the bloodstream – Cancerous cells can break away from a kidney tumor and enter the bloodstream, where they can be carried to and then deposited in distant organs and tissues.

Early diagnosis is a key factor in preventing kidney cancer from spreading. In the Urologic Oncology Program at Moffitt Cancer Center, our scientists and clinicians are committed to developing and enhancing our screening and diagnostic techniques to allow us to detect kidney cancer as early as possible. Working hand-in-hand with our oncologists, the members of our research team are continually increasing our understanding of the condition as we work toward our goal of one day overcoming it.

If you have questions about kidney cancer, you can arrange to talk with an experienced urologic oncologist at Moffitt by calling 1-888-663-3488 or completing our new patient registration form online. No referrals are necessary.