What you need to know about Kidney Cancer

Facts & Stats

Kidney cancer occurs when the healthy cells in one or both kidneys start developing renal cortical tumor. While benign at the initial stages, it can become malignant with time. There can be cancerous tumors which may or may not spread to other parts of the body. Some of the major forms of cancer that may affect the kidneys include renal cell carcinoma, sarcoma, urothelial carcinoma, lymphoma and Wilms tumor. Kidney cancers are quite common and about 1 in 50 people get affected by these conditions. In most cases, people who get affected by kidney cancers are over 45 years of age.

Symptoms

These are the main signs and symptoms associated with kidney cancer.

  • Anemia
  • Blood in urine
  • Loss of appetite
  • High blood pressure
  • Fatigue and tiredness
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Swelling of the legs and ankles
  • A lump or mass developing in the back or side
  • Pressure or pain felt around the back or side of the body
  • Fever that comes and goes and is not related to any flu, cold or some other infection

Varicocele is a cluster of numerous enlarged veins that may develop rapidly around a testicle in some cases. This can indicate the presence of a large sized kidney tumor in a man.

Stages

Kidney cancer is staged between Stage 0 and IV where the Stage 0 refers to a benign formation and the Stage IV is the most progressed stage. It is important to note that in practice there is hardly anything called Stage 0 kidney cancer. However, doctors still use that designation to describe preliminary cases of cancer formation. The staging of kidney cancer also describes the extent to which the tumor cells have spread and the lymph nodes and organs that have been already affected. Such staging process makes it easier for the doctors to come up with an effective treatment method.

Causes

There are a number of factors which can increase the chances of a person getting affected by kidney cancer. These are mentioned below in brief.

  • Old age
  • Obesity
  • Smoking
  • Long-term dialysis
  • Exposure to cadmium
  • Chronic kidney disease
  • Men are usually more at a risk of developing kidney cancer
  • Overuse of certain painkillers and diuretics High blood pressure

There are also certain hereditary conditions which increases the chances of kidney cancer. These are stated below.

  • Von Hippel-Lindau syndrome (VHL)
  • Hereditary papillary renal cell carcinoma (HPRCC)
  • Hereditary non-VHL clear cell renal cell carcinoma
  • Birt-Hogg-Dubé syndrome (BHD)
  • Tuberous sclerosis complex (TSC)
  • Hereditary leiomyomatosis and renal cell carcinoma (HLRCC)

Diagnosis

The doctor will first carry out a diagnostic test and recommend a biopsy to see whether the tumor is cancerous or not. Urine tests can also be performed to note the presence of cancer cells, bacteria or blood. Additional imaging tests that are used for the diagnosis of kidney cancer include CT scans, MRI scans, X-rays, Ultrasound, Intravenous pyelogram (IVP), Cystoscopy and nephro-ureteroscopy. The type of diagnostic method used for a kidney cancer may vary from one case to another. At the end of these tests, the doctor will evaluate the results to determine the extent of the cancer and the staging.

Treatment

Doctors can perform surgery to treat the kidney cancer. Radical nephrectomy, partial nephrectomy, laparoscopic surgery and robotic surgery are the main forms of surgery available for kidney cancers. In some cases, surgical treatment becomes impossible due to the health condition of the patient. In such cases, radiofrequency ablation and cryoablation works as the best forms of treatment. Additional therapies that can be tried out include targeted therapy, radiation therapy, immunotherapy and chemotherapy. Different forms of targeted therapy are available, such as anti-angiogenesis therapy, mTOR inhibitors and combined therapies. Each of these methods has been proven to be highly effective in most cases.

Prevention

One of the most potent ways of preventing kidney cancers is by quitting smoking. When you stop smoking, carcinogenic materials do no enter your body and lead to cancers. You should also get regular exercise, stay active and maintain proper and healthy body weight. Include a lot of foods and vegetables in your diet so that it builds up your immunity. You should also actively try to lower your blood pressure to minimize the chances of kidney cancer. If you have any genetic conditions that may predispose you to kidney cancer, you should go for genetic counseling for better health.