What Is Multilocular Cystic Renal Cell Carcinoma?

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Multilocular cystic renal cell carcinoma, also known as multilocular clear cell renal cell carcinoma, is a very rare type of kidney cancer. It is a subtype of clear cell renal cell carcinoma, the most common type of kidney cancer in the United States. Multilocular cystic renal cell carcinoma makes up about 1% to 2% of all clear cell renal cell carcinoma cases. 

This rare type of cancer appears as a tumor surrounded by a fibrous capsule. The inside of the tumor is made up of cysts and tissue. The tissue contains clear epithelial cells.

This article will provide an overview of multilocular cystic renal cell carcinoma and outline treatment options.

Smiling female doctor consulting with senior male patient and adult daughter in exam room

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Types of Renal Cell Carcinoma

Multilocular cystic renal cell carcinoma is a very rare type of cancer. In addition, there are several other types of renal cell carcinoma, including:

  • Clear cell renal cell carcinoma: This is the most common subtype of renal cell carcinoma and makes up about 70% of all cases. Under a microscope, these cells appear pale or clear. 
  • Papillary renal cell carcinoma: This is the second most common subtype and makes up about 10% of all renal cell carcinoma cases. It causes finger-like projections to grow in the small tubes in the kidneys. 
  • Chromophobe renal cell carcinoma: This type makes up about 5% of renal cell carcinoma cases, and its cells appear pale or clear under a microscope. 
  • Collecting duct renal cell carcinoma
  • Multilocular cystic renal cell carcinoma
  • Medullary carcinoma
  • Mucinous tubular and spindle cell carcinoma
  • Neuroblastoma-associated renal cell carcinoma

Multilocular Cystic Renal Cell Carcinoma Symptoms

Many people with multilocular cystic renal cell carcinoma have no symptoms at all. Possible symptoms of multilocular cystic renal cell carcinoma include:

  • Blood in the urine
  • A lump in the side abdomen
  • Abdominal or back pain
  • Fatigue
  • Fever
  • Unintended weight loss

Causes

Multilocular cystic renal cell carcinoma usually occurs randomly without a known cause.

It’s important to note that clear cell renal cell carcinoma, the type of kidney cancer that includes multilocular cystic renal cell carcinoma, is believed to run in families. If you have a family history of Hippel-Lindau disease, you may be at higher risk. This is due to a mutation in the VHL gene.

The average age at diagnosis for multilocular cystic renal cell carcinoma is 51 years, and men are more likely to experience this type of cancer by a ratio of 3:1.

Other risk factors for all types of renal cell carcinoma include:

Recap

While there is no known cause for multilocular cystic renal cell carcinoma, there are risk factors to be aware of. Men are more likely to experience this rare cancer, and the mean age at diagnosis is 51 years. 

Diagnosis

Multilocular cystic renal cell carcinoma can be difficult to diagnose because it often appears as a benign cyst on imaging studies. Tests to diagnose this rare cancer include:

  • Computed tomography (CT) scan: A CT scan takes detailed pictures of the body and can show where cancerous tumors are growing, as well as how big they are. 
  • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI): An MRI may be recommended to help determine if and where cancer has spread. This is known as metastasis.
  • Biopsy: A kidney biopsy will likely be performed by placing a thin needle into the kidney and taking a tissue sample to examine under a microscope for cancer cells. 

Treatment

Multilocular cystic renal cell carcinoma is considered slow-growing cancer with a positive prognosis. This type of cancer rarely if ever spreads or metastasizes. It behaves more like a benign tumor and is thus easier to treat than other types of kidney cancer.

Treatment plans usually involve surgery to remove the cancerous growth. If cancer is in an early stage, your surgeon will likely recommend removing the part of the kidney with the tumor. If the tumor is large or located in the middle of the kidney, the entire kidney may need to be removed.

The two types of surgery include:

  • Simple nephrectomy: Removal of the entire kidney
  • Nephron-sparing surgery: Removal of part of a kidney, also known as partial nephrectomy 

Rarely, other treatment options may include immunotherapy, targeted therapy, and radiation therapy. 

Prognosis

Fortunately, the prognosis for multilocular cystic renal cell carcinoma is positive. Cancer cells are usually found only in the kidney and do not tend to spread. Multilocular cystic renal cell carcinoma has the most positive prognosis of all the subtypes of renal cell carcinoma. 

Multilocular cystic renal cell carcinoma is known as a low-grade neoplasm. This means that the cells appear almost normal under a microscope. This type of cancer usually has an excellent prognosis because the cells tend to grow and spread slowly.

Recap

Multilocular cystic renal cell carcinoma is a low-grade neoplasm and rarely spreads beyond the kidney. It has a positive prognosis when treated. 

Coping

Undergoing cancer treatment is an overwhelming experience, and finding ways to cope is essential. Talk with your medical team about your prognosis and what to expect from surgery. Ask about support groups or online communities, as well as financial assistance programs.

The following organizations may be able to help as well:

Summary 

Multilocular cystic renal cell carcinoma is a very rare type of kidney cancer and is a subtype of clear cell renal cell carcinoma. This low-grade neoplasm usually does not spread beyond the kidney and tends to have a positive diagnosis. Surgery to remove the cancerous area of the kidney or the entire kidney is generally recommended. 

A Word From Verywell

Learning that you have cancer may be one of the most stressful moments of your life. It is helpful to remember that while multilocular cystic renal cell carcinoma is rare, it has an excellent prognosis when treated with surgery. Talk with your medical team about your treatment options and available support services. 

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Is multilocular cystic renal cell carcinoma curable?

    Yes, the prognosis for this type of cancer is very positive. The cancerous tissue is usually confined to the kidney and removed via surgery. 

  • What causes multilocular cystic renal cell carcinoma?

    There is no known cause for multilocular renal cell carcinoma. Possible risk factors include:

  • What is nephron-sparing surgery?

    During nephron-sparing surgery, the surgeon removes part of the kidney, as opposed to the entire kidney. It is also known as partial nephrectomy. Talk with your surgeon about the best treatment option for your type of cancer.

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7 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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