Papillary Renal Cell Carcinoma

Papillary Renal Cell Carcinoma (PRCC) is a specific type of cancer that affects the kidneys. It is the second most common subtype of renal cell carcinoma (RCC), accounting for about 10-15% of all kidney cancer cases. This cancer arises in the tubules of the kidney, which are responsible for filtering blood and producing urine.

PRCC is characterized by the growth of small, finger-like projections called papillae within the tumor. Understanding the basics, diagnosis, treatment, and imaging of PRCC can empower patients and their families with the knowledge to navigate through this condition.

What is Papillary Renal Cell Carcinoma?

Papillary Renal Cell Carcinoma is a form of kidney cancer distinguished by its unique cellular structure. Unlike other kidney cancers, PRCC cells form papillary or tubular structures in the tumor. These cancers are further classified into two types: Type 1 and Type 2, based on their cellular appearance under a microscope. Type 1 tumors tend to have a better prognosis than Type 2.

Symptoms of Papillary Renal Cell Carcinoma

In the early stages, PRCC may not show any symptoms. As the tumor grows, symptoms may appear, including blood in the urine (hematuria), back or flank pain, weight loss, fatigue, and intermittent fever. It’s crucial to consult a healthcare provider if any of these symptoms persist.

Diagnosis of Papillary Renal Cell Carcinoma

Diagnosing PRCC typically involves a combination of physical exams, blood and urine tests, and imaging techniques. Imaging plays a pivotal role in detecting, characterizing, and staging PRCC, providing essential information that guides treatment decisions.

Imaging Techniques for PRCC


Ultrasound is often the first imaging technique used when kidney problems are suspected. It can detect masses in the kidneys but may not be able to definitively diagnose PRCC.

Computed Tomography (CT) Scan

A CT scan is more detailed than an ultrasound and can provide clearer images of the kidney, revealing the presence of tumors and their size. It is important in staging PRCC by showing how far cancer has spread.

Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI)

MRI offers detailed images of soft tissues and is particularly useful in assessing the extent of the tumor and its involvement with surrounding structures.

Positron Emission Tomography (PET) Scan

Although not routinely used for diagnosing PRCC, a PET scan can help in some cases by providing information on the metabolic activity of the tumor, which can indicate malignancy.  It can also detect spread of cancer.

Treatment Options for Papillary Renal Cell Carcinoma

The treatment for PRCC depends on the stage of the cancer, the patient’s overall health, and other factors. Options include surgery, targeted therapy, immunotherapy, and, in some cases, radiation therapy.


Surgery is the most common treatment for PRCC, especially in early stages. Procedures may range from partial nephrectomy, where only the tumor is removed, to radical nephrectomy, where the entire kidney is removed.

Targeted Therapy and Immunotherapy

For advanced PRCC, targeted therapy and immunotherapy have emerged as effective treatments. These approaches focus on specific molecules and pathways to halt the growth and spread of cancer cells.


Papillary Renal Cell Carcinoma is a significant health concern with specific characteristics that differentiate it from other kidney cancers. Early detection and treatment are crucial for improving outcomes, and imaging techniques play a vital role in the diagnosis and management of PRCC.

Advances in medical science continue to improve the prognosis for PRCC patients, offering hope and new possibilities for treatment. Awareness and understanding of this condition are key to early detection and effective management, ultimately leading to better health outcomes for those affected.

Disclaimer: The content of this website is provided for general informational purposes only and is not intended as, nor should it be considered a substitute for, professional medical advice. Do not use the information on this website for diagnosing or treating any medical or health condition. If you have or suspect you have a medical problem, promptly contact your professional healthcare provider.

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