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Renal Medullary Carcinoma (RMC)

What is RMC?

Renal medullary carcinoma, or RMC, is a type of rare cancer that grows in the kidneys. The kidneys are a pair of organs that filter your blood to remove waste and make urine. RMC is an aggressive cancer, which means it grows quickly and can spread to other parts of the body.

How common is RMC?

RMC is very rare and was first described in 1995. It is most common in males and in African Americans. RMC is also more common in teens and young adults. People with sickle cell trait or sickle cell disease are at a higher risk of getting RMC. People with sickle cell trait or sickle disease have changes in the shape of their blood cells that can lead to pain and other medical conditions.

How is RMC diagnosed?

People with RMC can have symptoms that include:

  • Blood in the urine (the most common sign)
  • A lump in the abdomen
  • Fever and night sweats
  • Pain the area around the kidneys (a less common sign)
  • Fatigue
  • Weight Loss

Imaging: If you have symptoms of RMC, your doctor will use imaging scans such as CT and MRI, to look at where the tumor is and how big it is. They will also check for signs that the tumor has spread to other parts of the body.

Biopsy: To check if the tumor is RMC your doctor will do a biopsy, taking a small sample from the tumor with a needle. An expert, called a pathologist, will study cells from the sample under the microscope to see what kind of tumor it is.

Many times, people with RMC are diagnosed after the cancer has spread to other parts of the body.

How is RMC Treated?

Treatment for each patient will be unique. You should go to an expert in RMC treatment to decide the best approach for your tumor. You can contact MyPART for help finding experts near you.

Surgery:Once RMC is diagnosed, you may have surgery to remove the kidney with the tumor, called a nephrectomy.

Chemotherapy:When the RMC tumors are large, or the cancer cells have spread to other parts of the body, then chemotherapy is used with or without surgery. Sometimes, chemotherapy can help control RMC, but does not cure it.

Targeted Therapy:Targeted therapy targets the changes in cancer cells that help them grow, divide, and spread. Because chemotherapy does not work well for RMC, researchers are working to make better treatments. Some targeted therapies are being studied for RMC.

Does RMC Run in families?

RMC is not known to run in families, but people who inherit sickle cell trait from their parents may be at an increased risk of getting RMC.

How does RMC form?

We know that some people with RMC have changes in the gene called SMARCB1. This change can cause cells to grow when they shouldn’t. Understanding the role of this change in SMARCB1 may be important for finding treatments for RMC.

Because RMC occurs more frequently in people with sickle cell trait or sickle cell disease, this may give scientists some clues.

What is the prognosis for someone with RMC?

The estimate of how a disease will affect you long-term is called prognosis. Every person is different and prognosis will depend on many factors, such as:

  • Where the tumor is in your body
  • If the cancer has spread to other parts of your body
  • How much of the tumor was taken out during surgery

If you want information on your prognosis, it is important to talk to your doctor. Also, NCI has resources to help you understand cancer prognosis.

Doctors estimate RMC survival rates by how groups of people with RMC have done in the past. Because there are so few RMC patients, these rates may not be very accurate. With this in mind, RMC has an overall survival rate of about 13 months. It is very important to work with a team of experts as soon as possible after diagnosis to improve your chances of survival. You can contact MyPART for help connecting with experts in RMC.