UNC Health Talk

Expert Help for Patients at Risk of Kidney Cancer

Kidney cancer is among the 10 most common cancers for men and women in the United States. People can change lifestyle risks, such as smoking and obesity, but certain genetic conditions still increase a person’s risk of developing kidney cancer.

Specialists at the von Hippel-Lindau Comprehensive Clinical Care Center (VHL CCCC), part of UNC Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center, treat these types of genetic disorders.

“A lot of times the kidney cancers associated with these diseases can be more aggressive than other types of kidney cancers,” says Mary Dunn, NP, co-director of the VHL CCCC. The center became a recognized Comprehensive Clinical Care Center by the VHL Alliance in 2012. “The purpose is to have this multidisciplinary center where patients can come and be seen, and then we can refer them out to a host of other specialists.”

What kind of familial conditions can predispose a patient to kidney cancer?

  • Von Hippel-Lindau (VHL). This syndrome is characterized by the formation of benign and cancerous tumors and cysts in the body. In particular, tumors of the central nervous system called hemangioblastomas are key indicators of VHL.
  • Tuberous sclerosis (TSC). Often detected during infancy or early childhood, TSC is a rare genetic disease that causes benign tumors or lesions to grow throughout the body, most commonly in the brain, kidneys, heart, lungs and skin.
  • Birt-Hogg-Dubé syndrome (BHD). BHD is a rare disorder that manifests through benign skin tumors, particularly on the face, neck and upper chest. The condition also has an increased risk of cysts in the lungs and abnormal air accumulation in the chest.
  • Hereditary leiomyomatosis and renal cell carcinoma (HLRCC). People with HLRCC tend to develop benign leiomyomas in the skin and uterus, as well as uterine fibroids.
  • Hereditary papillary renal cell cancer (pRCC). Patients with pRCC experience type 1 papillary tumors in the kidneys.

Get Specialized Care

Although getting the right treatment is an individualized experience for many patients, the long-term care associated with these familial diseases is often complex and involves specialists from a host of disciplines.

VHL CCCC’s multidisciplinary team—which includes experts in urology, genetics, medical oncology, ophthalmology, audiology, neurology and neurosurgery, pediatrics, nephrology, advanced practice nursing and social work—allows patients and their loved ones to have everything they need in one place.

Benefits of seeking care at the VHL CCCC include access to:

  • A network of specialists in one coordinated care center
  • Pertinent services such as MRI and CT scans, ultrasound, nuclear medicine, angiography, physical therapy, genetic testing, neurological rehabilitation, radiofrequency ablation and cryotherapy
  • The latest research and expertise

Learn more about services offered at UNC’s von Hippel-Lindau Comprehensive Clinical Care Center.