Lymphoma is a cancer that starts in your immune system. As lymphoma spreads, it can affect your lymph nodes, spleen, liver, lungs, or kidneys. Lymphoma that has spread to your kidneys might be referred to as kidney lymphoma.

There are multiple types of lymphoma. The type that is most likely to spread to your kidneys is called non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.

Rarely, lymphoma is found in the kidneys without it being present in other organs or body systems. This accounts for less than 1 percent of all kidney lymphomas.

Kidney lymphoma occurs most often when non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma reaches stage 4. This means cancer has spread beyond the lymph nodes and into other organs, including the kidneys. Symptoms might include:

Most of these symptoms are also caused by conditions that are not kidney lymphoma. Having one or more of these symptoms does not necessarily mean you have kidney lymphoma.

However, if you do have any of these symptoms, it’s a good idea to make an appointment to discuss them with a medical professional as soon as possible.

You’ll need to have a biopsy before a diagnosis of kidney lymphoma can be confirmed. You might have a biopsy done on just your kidney or on your lymph nodes and bone marrow as well. Your doctor will let you know what tests are needed.

It helps to know what to expect if you receive a cancer diagnosis. These questions should help you start to understand your diagnosis and what comes next:

  • What is the stage of my kidney lymphoma?
  • What exactly does that stage mean in my case?
  • What are my treatment options?
  • Why is the doctor recommending those options?
  • What are the potential risks and side effects of those treatment options?
  • What would happen if I did not pursue treatment or waited to pursue treatment?
  • How long will treatment take?
  • Will treatment impact my daily life?
  • What happens if these treatments do not work?
  • Are there any financial resources available to help pay for treatment?
  • Are there any mental health resources available?

The right treatment plan for your kidney lymphoma depends on multiple factors, including the stage at diagnosis and your overall health. Treatment options might include:

  • Chemotherapy. Chemotherapy is often the first treatment for kidney lymphoma. During chemotherapy, you’ll take specialized medication, either by mouth or through a vein, to kill cancer cells.
  • Radiation therapy. Radiation therapy kills cancer cells throughout your body and may be an option in your case.
  • Chimeric antigen receptor (CAR) T cell therapy. This treatment uses your own immune cells to help your body kill the cancer cells. Immune cells called T cells are taken from your body and treated in a lab with a protein that allows them to fight the cancerous cells. The cells are then given back to you by injection.
  • Targeted therapy. Targeted therapy uses medications to identify and attack cancer cells.
  • Monoclonal antibody therapy. Monoclonal antibodies are immune system proteins that can block the growth of new cancer cells and kill existing cancer cells. Monoclonal antibody treatment is generally given through your vein.
  • Antibiotic therapy. Antibiotic therapy treats infections caused by cancer or bacteria.
  • Surgery. Part of the kidney, or even the whole kidney, may need to be removed.
  • Stem cell transplant. A stem cell transplant replaces blood cells with immature blood cells called stem cells, allowing the growth of healthy new blood cells.
  • Watchful waiting. Watchful waiting is not an active treatment. Instead, during watchful waiting, a medical team monitors a person without giving treatment until there is a reason for treatment to begin or resume.

It can be hard to focus on anything else when you have kidney lymphoma. Between the stress of the diagnosis, attending your appointments, and managing your symptoms, it can be a full-time job. Even treatments can leave you worn out.

However, there are ways you can take care of yourself during your treatment. You can take small steps to make your everyday life a little bit easier.

A great place to start is by reaching out to a mental health professional. Even if you’ve never been to therapy before, it can be a huge help when you’re living with kidney lymphoma.

You can look for therapists who specialize in people with cancer and understand your situation. Your doctor might be able to recommend someone in your local area.

It’s also a good idea to focus on the parts of your health you can control. This might mean:

Getting help

You don’t have to face kidney lymphoma alone. There are resources available to help you find support, financial assistance, and more. You can reach out to:

  • Your local Leukemia & Lymphoma Society support group. You can use this locator to find your local group for support and resources in your area.
  • The Patti Robinson Kaufmann First Connection Program. This program is for people who’ve received a diagnosis of leukemia or lymphoma. It helps connect you to a peer with a similar diagnosis. It’s a great way to gain support and get an idea of what to expect.
  • The Cancer Support Helpline. The Cancer Support Helpline can help you find local assistance, support groups, financial aid, supportive services, and more. They offer both phone and live chat options in 200 languages.
  • The Kidney Cancer Association. The Kidney Cancer Association offers a library of resource videos, peer support groups, a patient liaison program, and more.
  • Your family or community. You can rely on the support of family, friends, or community members during your treatment. Even if you don’t have family or friends close by, there might be local charities, nonprofits, or churches that can offer you support.
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Lymphoma that has spread to the kidneys can generally be classed as stage 4, or lymphoma that has spread to a distant organ.

Depending on the subtype of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, the 5-year survival rate for lymphoma that has spread to a distant organ can be anywhere from 57 percent for people with diffuse large B cell lymphoma to 85 percent for people with follicular lymphoma.

However, these numbers are based on statistics collected between 2010 and 2016.

Medical professionals are continually finding and implementing new cancer treatments with very successful outcomes. It’s likely that true current survival rates are higher.

Additional factors such as age and how well kidney lymphoma responds to treatment can make a significant difference in your outlook.

Kidney lymphoma is most often the result of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma spreading to the kidneys. Although this generally means the lymphoma can be classed as stage 4, kidney lymphoma is still very treatable.

Chemotherapy and targeted therapy are common treatments for this type of cancer. In some cases, surgery or a stem cell transplant might be needed.

Your medical team will help you determine the best treatment plan for you.