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Statistics and outlook for kidney cancer

Men and women discussing kidney cancer

This page is about statistics and what they can tell us about the outlook for people with kidney cancer. There is information about

 

A quick guide to what's on this page

Statistics and outlook for kidney cancer

Outlook means the likely outcome of your disease and treatment. Your doctor may call this your prognosis. With kidney cancer, the likely outcome depends on how advanced the cancer is when it is diagnosed (the stage). The grade can also be important.

Below we have quite detailed information about the likely outcome of different stages of kidney cancer. The statistics we use are taken from a variety of sources, including the opinions and experience of the experts who check every section of Cancer Research UK's patient information. They are intended as a general guide only. For the more complete picture in your case, you need to speak to your own specialist.

We include statistics because people ask for them but not everyone wants to read this type of information. Remember that you can skip this page if you don't want to read it. You can always come back to it.

How reliable are cancer statistics?

No statistics can tell you what will happen to you. Your cancer is unique. The same type of cancer can grow at different rates in different people. The statistics cannot tell you about the different treatments people may have had, or how that treatment may have affected their prognosis. There are many individual factors that will affect your treatment and your outlook.

 

CR PDF Icon You can view and print the quick guides for all the pages in the Treating kidney cancer section.

 

 

What you need to know about the information on this page

Following on this page is quite detailed information about the survival rates of different stages of kidney cancer. We have included it because many people have asked us for this. But not everyone who is diagnosed with a cancer wants to read this type of information. If you are not sure whether you want to know at the moment or not, then perhaps you might like to skip this page for now. You can always come back to it.

Please note that the statistics we present here are pulled together from a variety of different sources, including the opinions and experience of the experts who check Cancer Research UK's patient information pages. We provide statistics because people ask us for them. But they are only intended as a general guide and cannot be used to predict your individual outlook.

 

Cancer statistics in general

There is a section explaining the different types of cancer statistics in the section on incidence, survival and mortality. Unless you are very familiar with medical statistics, it might help to read this before you read the statistics below.

Remember that 5 year survival is a term that doctors use. It does not mean you will only live 5 years. It relates to the number of people in research who were still alive 5 years after diagnosis. Doctors follow what happens to people for 5 years or more after treatment in any research study. This is because there is only a small chance that a cancer will come back more than 5 years after treatment. They do not like to say these people are cured because there is that small chance. So they use the term 5 year survival instead.

 

Outcome overall and by stage

As with many other types of cancer, the outcome of kidney cancer depends on how advanced it is when it is diagnosed. In other words, the stage of the kidney cancer. Of all the people with kidney cancer in England and Wales, more than half (50%) live for at least five years after they are diagnosed. More than 4 out of 10 (40%) live for at least 10 years.

The British Association of Urological Surgeons (BAUS) collect information on kidney cancer diagnosis in the UK. According to their figures, of all the people diagnosed with kidney cancer in the UK in 2009, that could be staged

  • 39 out of 100 (39%) had stage 1
  • 16 out of 100 (16%) had stage 2
  • 26 out of 100 (26%) had stage 3
  • 19 out of 100 (19%) had stage 4

The BAUS data for the past few years shows a small but steady trend towards finding kidney tumours at an earlier stage. This is a good thing, because they are then easier to treat.

The links below take you down the page to specific information about the outlook for the different stages of kidney cancer.

Stage 1

If you are diagnosed with stage one kidney cancer then your cancer is completely inside the kidney. This means it hasn’t had a chance to spread. Generally, your prognosis is very good, if you are well enough for treatment. More than 90 out of every 100 people (90%) diagnosed live for at least 5 years after diagnosis.

Stage 2

With stage 2 cancers, the statistics show that between 65 and 75 out of every 100 people diagnosed (65 to 75%) live for at least 5 years after diagnosis. People at the higher end of the range are likely to have more slowly growing (lower grade) cancers and to be fit and well.

Stage 3

Stage 3 means that cancer cells have spread to a lymph node near to the kidney. Again, prognosis is affected by grade and how well you are. Generally, between 40 and 70 out of every 100 people (40 to 70%) diagnosed with a stage 3 kidney cancer will live for at least 5 years after diagnosis. Those at the higher end of this scale are likely to have lower grade cancers and to be fit and well.

Stage 4

About 1 in 5 people (20%) with kidney cancer have stage 4 cancer when they are diagnosed. This either means the cancer has grown into the tissues around the kidney or it has spread to another part of the body. Overall, with a stage 4 kidney cancer, about 10 out of every 100 people (10%) diagnosed live for at least 5 years. But this is affected very much by the grade of the cancer. With a low grade cancer and local spread, some studies show 5 year survival statistics as high as 40 out of every 100 people (40%).

 

Other factors affecting outcome

There are other factors that can affect your outcome (prognosis), apart from the stage of your cancer. These include

Grade of the cancer

The grade is how the cancer cells look under the microscope. The system of grading kidney cancer cells is called the Fuhrman system, after the man who created it. There are 4 groups (called grades 1 to 4), according to the size and appearance of the nucleus (the control centre) of the cancer cells. Grade 1 is the lowest grade and grade 4 the highest. Grade 4 cancers are more likely to grow quickly and are more likely to spread than lower grade cancers.

How well you are

Doctors also have a way of grading how well you are. They call this your performance status. A score of 0 means you are completely able to look after yourself. A score of 1 means you can do most things for yourself, but need some help. The scores continue to go up, depending on how much help you need.

Performance status score is important in kidney cancer because the cancer can cause general symptoms such as

  • A high temperature (fever)
  • Weight loss
  • Extreme tiredness

People who do NOT have these symptoms have a better outlook (prognosis) than people who do have these symptoms. Performance status is used to predict prognosis because it will be affected by these symptoms. If you are weak from losing weight and have fevers and are very tired, you will need more day to day help, so your performance score will be at least 1. Doctors and nurses often write performance status as PS.

Your age

Younger men and women with kidney cancer tend to live slightly longer than older people. This is likely to be due to better general health, treatments working better in younger people and being diagnosed earlier.

 

Reliability of statistics

No statistics can tell you what will happen to you. Your cancer is unique. The same type of cancer can behave differently in different people.

The statistics are not detailed enough to tell you about the treatment people may have had. The statistics also don't tell us how that treatment may have affected their prognosis. Some treatments for advanced cancer may help people to live longer as well as relieving symptoms. There are many individual factors that will determine your treatment and prognosis. If you are well enough to have treatment, you are likely to do better than average, particularly if your cancer is more advanced.

 

Clinical trials

Research evidence shows that taking part in clinical trials may improve outlook. No one is completely sure why this is. It is probably partly to do with your doctors and nurses monitoring you more closely if you are in a trial. For example, you may have more scans and blood tests. There is information in the trials and research section

To search our clinical trials database for kidney cancer trials, pick 'kidney' from the dropdown menu of cancer types.

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Updated: 10 January 2014