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Does Cancer in a Kidney Put Both Your Kidneys at Risk?


Kidney TumorIf you are diagnosed with cancer in a kidney, you may lose that kidney, but is the other one also at risk?

A cancer diagnosis comes with a flood of questions regarding treatment, outcomes and lifestyle changes. And on top of all that come the common worries: Will the cancer spread and what happens if it does?

Luckily, for most patients, the cancer is not likely to spread to the other kidney and you may not lose a kidney at all, says urologist Rajan Ramanathan, MD.

How does cancer typically spread?The likelihood, however, that cancer may spread to another organ depends on size and growth rate. Tumors that are larger or fast-growing are more apt to spread to other parts of the body, Dr. Ramanathan says. Early diagnosis also is a key factor in preventing cancer in the kidney from spreading.


There are three main ways cancer spreads through the body:



  • Through the lymphatic system to nearby lymph nodes

  • Through the bloodstream, most often ending up in the adrenal glands, liver, lungs, brain and sometimes bone

  • By locality, moving to nearby organs

  • Because the kidneys aren’t next to each other, there is little chance that your cancer will move from one to the other.


The likelihood, however, that cancer may spread to another organ depends on size and growth rate. Tumors that are larger or fast-growing are more apt to spread to other parts of the body, Dr. Ramanathan says. Early diagnosis also is a key factor in preventing cancer in the kidney from spreading.

What to expect if you have kidney cancer