Renal/ Kidney Cancer

This section is about kidney cancer which is also known as renal cancer. Follow the links below for information on how kidney cancer is treated within the Belfast Health and Social Care Trust:


Types of Kidney Cancer

The majority of kidney cancers are renal cell cancers (RCC). These are sometimes called renal adenocarcinoma. The most common subtype is clear cell renal adenocarcinoma.

Other less common types of renal cancer include:

  • Papillary (or chromophilic)
  • Chromophobic
  • Oncocytic
  • Collecting Duct
  • Sarcomatoid

A rarer type of kidney cancer is transitional cell cancer (TCC) of the urethra.

For more information on types of kidney cancer please follow this link


Investigations and Diagnosis

If a patient is suspected of having kidney cancer, they will be referred to Belfast City Hospital by their GP. The referral will usually be based on the results of blood and urine tests conducted by the GP.

If blood is found in a urine sample (haematuria), the patient will be referred to a ‘one stop’ haematuria clinic. At this kind of clinic, all the tests needed to make a diagnosis can often be carried out at the same time and it is possible to go home the same day. Eating or drinking may be prohibited for up to eight hours before the appointment.

There are a number of diagnostic investigations that patients with suspected kidney cancer may have. These can usually be done at a one stop haematuria clinic.

Diagnostic investigations:


Pre-assessment clinic

When coming to Belfast City Hospital for surgery, patients may be asked to come up to meet one of the surgical team for a pre-assessment appointment to ensure the patient is fit and safe for surgery. In some cases patients may have an anaesthetic assessment and if this is required then the patient may be admitted overnight.

Patients are informed of approximate date of their surgery or the expected waiting time by their surgeon and will be kept up to date by the Urology Scheduling office. When a patient comes to the hospital for surgery, they will most probably be admitted to Level 3 of Belfast City Hospital Tower. This is a specialised urology ward.


For many patients with kidney cancer, surgery may be the most appropriate treatment. Surgery to remove the cancer is a major operation and it will take a number of weeks to recover. Surgery is performed at Belfast City Hospital.

There are 3 main types of surgery to treat kidney cancer:

  • Partial Nephrectomy: This procedure involves the surgical removal of part of the kidney in which a small tumour is located.
  • Radical Nephrectomy: This procedure involves the surgical removal of all of the kidney to prevent a serious side effect or chronic kidney disease.
  • Laparoscopic Nephrectomy: This procedure involves the removal of some or the entire kidney via keyhole surgery. This type of surgery makes a small opening in the kidney and a laparscope is used to see/examine and work inside the abdomen.

If the urology surgeon decides that a patient is not suitable for surgery then they may send them for an embolisation procedure. This procedure may also be performed if the cancer tumour is too large to remove. It involves blocking off the blood supply to the tumour. A thin plastic tube known as a catheter is placed into the blood vessel in the groin. A substance is then injected through the catheter which passes into the kidney.This substance blocks off the blood supply i.e. oxygen and nutrients to the tumour in the kidney.


Patients may require chemotherapy as part of their treatment for kidney cancer. For general information on chemotherapy in the Belfast Health and Social Care Trust, please follow this link.


Patients who require radiotherapy as part of their treatment for kidney cancer will be treated in the Radiotherapy Department in the Cancer Centre. For general information on radiotherapy in the Belfast Health and Social Care Trust, please follow this link.


Follow Up

As part of follow up after treatment, patients will be asked to attend review appointments with a member of the uro-oncology cancer team. The frequency of these review appointments will differ for each patient. The review appointments allow the team to assess patient progress following treatment. The appointments are also a good opportunity for patients to discuss any problems or worries they may have.

Follow up appointments will take place in Belfast City Hospital or the Mater Hospital.

If patients notice any new symptoms or have any worries between follow up appointments, they should contact their GP, Urology Clinical Nurse Specialist or Consultant.


Useful Links

For more information on kidney cancer and kidney cancer charities and support groups, please follow the links below: