Mesothelioma vs. Kidney Cancer

Quick Summary

Receiving the wrong diagnosis can be devastating, yet it’s not uncommon for peritoneal mesothelioma to be mistaken for kidney cancer. While there are similarities between the two, they are different diseases and require unique health strategies and treatment plans.

Mesothelioma vs. Kidney Cancer Overview

Mesothelioma and kidney cancer differ in many ways, including their cause, symptoms, methods of determining the stage and treatment options. Therefore, it is critical that patients receive the correct diagnosis as early as possible.

Mesothelioma Overview

Mesothelioma is caused by first- or second-hand exposure to asbestos. When asbestos particles are accidentally inhaled or ingested, they become lodged in the body. Over time, these asbestos particles trigger a mutation in nearby cells, known as mesothelioma, which will then grow and spread throughout the body.

Kidney Cancer Overview

Scientists do not know the exact causes of kidney cancer or renal failure, although there are several known risk factors. These risk factors include environmental, genetic and hereditary impacts.

Risk factors for kidney cancer:

  • Obesity
  • Smoking
  • Increasing age
  • Family history of kidney or renal cancer
  • High blood pressure
  • Workplace exposure to asbestos-containing substances
  • Cadmium
  • Pesticides
  • Long-Term Dialysis due to Kidney Failure
  • Birt-Hogg-Dube syndrome
  • Hereditary papillary renal cell carcinoma
  • Tuberous sclerosis complex
  • Von Hippel-Lindau disease
  • Asbestos exposure

Similar to other cancers, including mesothelioma, kidney cancer is caused when the body’s natural cells mutate and then spread through the body. Changes to the DNA cause the cells to behave abnormally, transforming them into tumor cells that lump together. However, scientists are still trying to determine what causes the initial mutation to occur.

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Symptoms of Mesothelioma vs. Kidney Cancer

Mesothelioma Symptoms

Mesothelioma is notorious for its ability to remain hidden during its early stages. The initial mesothelioma tumors grow as small nodules, instead of large masses. Because of this, the body can remain symptom-free for quite some time, making it difficult to detect mesothelioma until it progresses. Symptoms of peritoneal mesothelioma include the following.

Early symptoms of peritoneal mesothelioma:

  • Abdominal pain or swelling
  • Abdominal fluid build up
  • Anemia
  • Cramps and gas
  • Lack of appetite
  • Unexplained weight loss

Later symptoms of peritoneal mesothelioma:

  • Nausea
  • Fever
  • Seizures
  • Blood clots
  • Abdominal tissue lumps

People exposed to asbestos who later develop any of the above symptoms may have mesothelioma. It is important to be seen by a mesothelioma specialist to help determine your diagnosis.

Kidney Cancer Symptoms

Like mesothelioma, kidney cancer cells are difficult to detect in the early stages. These cells originate on a kidney, which is tucked away inside the body. Most people don’t have this part of their body routinely scanned and, instead, rely on symptoms to signal a problem.

Kidney cancer symptoms include:

  • Blood in the urine
  • Persistent pain in the back or side
  • Intermittent fever
  • Lack of appetite
  • Inexplicable weight loss
  • Exhaustion

If you have any of the symptoms of mesothelioma or kidney cancer, get in touch with your doctor immediately. Both of these diseases show symptoms as the disease progresses, which requires urgent intervention.

Mesothelioma vs. Kidney Cancer Diagnosis

Mesothelioma Diagnosis

Peritoneal mesothelioma is challenging to diagnose, even for experienced oncologists. Anyone who is presenting mesothelioma symptoms should find an oncologist who has extensive expertise in mesothelioma.

Correctly diagnosing peritoneal mesothelioma requires four steps:

  • Physical examination – An oncologist will do a physical review of the body and discuss the patient’s symptoms, medical history and family history.
  • Image tests – One or more imaging tests will be performed, which may include a CT scan, MRI, PET scan or specialized X-ray.
  • Biomarker and blood tests – Certain biological chemicals and DNA markers can indicate a potential mesothelioma presence.
  • Biopsies – Tumor biopsies are the only way to definitively diagnose mesothelioma, but are invasive to collect. If peritoneal mesothelioma is still suspected, an oncologist or surgeon may collect a biopsy, which will be analyzed by a pathologist to determine whether the cells look like mutated mesothelioma cells.

Kidney Cancer Diagnosis

Kidney cancer diagnosis is quite similar to mesothelioma but focuses on the kidney instead of the entire abdomen. In some cases, scans attempting to diagnose mesothelioma may indicate a patient has kidney cancer instead, and vice versa.

The general process for kidney cancer diagnosis is as follows:

  • Physical Examination
  • Urine and Blood Tests
  • Image tests
  • Biopsy

The primary difference between kidney cancer and mesothelioma diagnosis is that kidney cancer is most commonly diagnosed at the imaging stage, while mesothelioma typically requires a biopsy. Kidney cancers form as larger clumps of cells, therefore they are often visible enough on imaging tests for oncologists to provide a confident diagnosis.

Sometimes, a biopsy may be required to confirm the kidney cancer diagnosis, but this often isn’t the case. Patients who suspect they have mesothelioma and not kidney cancer should request this final biopsy.

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Treating Mesothelioma vs. Kidney Cancer

Mesothelioma Treatment

Mesothelioma treatment is aggressive, as mesothelioma is tough cancer to fight. Peritoneal mesothelioma specialists typically recommend a trimodal approach to treatment, which combines surgery, chemotherapy and radiation therapy.

Surgery is usually performed first. A surgeon will visually seek out the mesothelioma tumors in the abdomen, surgically removing every tumor they find. HIPEC, or heated chemotherapy, is sometimes performed next. With HIPEC, the abdomen is soaked in a chemotherapy solution,  essentially bathing the organs in cancer-destroying medication.

Heated Chemotherapy

Heated chemotherapy, or HIPEC, is an innovative procedure that was developed to destroy mesothelioma cells that are left behind after surgery.  Unlike traditional IV or oral chemotherapy, heated chemotherapy can get into all the nooks and crannies of the abdomen, resulting in direct contact with the mesothelioma cells.

After the surgical solutions are performed, many oncologists will alternate chemotherapy and radiation therapy treatments. Like HIPEC, these treatments are meant to destroy any cells that couldn’t be removed during surgery, and help slow or eliminate the mutation and growth of new cells.

Newer treatment methods, including biological therapy, immunotherapy and targeted therapy may also be used. Many variations of these treatments are still in a clinical trial to help improve overall success rates and find an eventual tried-and-true cure for mesothelioma.

Kidney Cancer Treatment

Kidney cancer treatment also tends to begin with surgery, removing as much of the tumor as possible from the body. In some cases, if the kidney tumor is small enough, less aggressive tactics, including cryoablation (freezing) or radiofrequency ablation (heating), may be used to destroy the tumor instead.

Two common types of surgical procedures for kidney cancer:

  • Nephrectomy: The entire affected kidney is removed from the body. Nephrectomies are considered a radical procedure and are typically reserved for more advanced stages of kidney cancer.
  • Partial Nephrectomy: Only the affected part of the kidney is removed. This kidney-sparing procedure leaves the patient with as much of the kidney as possible.

After surgery or an ablation procedure, oncologists are likely to prescribe chemotherapy and radiation therapy. Combining these two cancer-fighting therapies give patients their best chance of beating their kidney cancer once and for all.

Like mesothelioma patients, kidney cancer patients may also be able to try targeted therapy, immunotherapy or biological therapy treatment. Some clinical trials are also available.

Patient Advocates Are Available

Misdiagnosis is a matter of life and death. If you have been diagnosed with kidney cancer or mesothelioma, you should get a second opinion to confirm the diagnosis. Contact us at (800) 584-4151 or receive our FREE Mesothelioma Help Guide to help understand the available treatment and support options.

View Author and Sources

  1. Mayo Clinic, “Kidney Cancer,” Retrieved from Accessed on August 11, 2018.
  2. American Cancer Society, “Kidney Cancer Early Detection, Diagnosis, and Staging,” Retrieved from Accessed on August 11, 2018.
  3. American Cancer Society, “Kidney Cancer Treatment,” Retrieved from Accessed on August 11, 2018.
  4. American Cancer Society, “Tests for Kidney Cancer,” Retrieved from Accessed on August 11, 2018.
  5. US National Library of Medicine, “Renal cell carcinoma and malignant peritoneal mesothelioma after occupational asbestos exposure: case report,” Retrieved from Accessed on August 11, 2018.
  6. US National Library of Medicine, “Asbestos and kidney cancer: the evidence supports a causal association,” Retrieved from Accessed on August 11, 2018.

Last modified: September 7, 2018