Also called: Hypernephroma, Renal cancer
You have two kidneys. They are fist-sized organs on either side of your backbone above your waist. The tubes inside filter and clean your blood, taking out waste products and making urine. Kidney cancer forms in the lining of tiny tubes inside your kidneys. It happens most often in people over 40. Risk factors include smoking, having certain genetic conditions and misusing pain medicines for a long time.
Often, kidney cancer doesn't have early symptoms. However, see your health care provider if you notice
- Blood in your urine
- A lump in your abdomen
- Unexplained weight loss
- Pain in your side
- Loss of appetite
Kidney Cancer SymptomsThere are many variations of kidney cancer. The most commonly diagnosed type of kidney cancer is renal cell carcinoma. It accounts for more than 85% of kidney cancer diagnosis'.
The most commonly experienced kidney cancer symptoms (renal cell carcinoma) are: -
- Chronic fatigue
- Unexplained, rapid weightloss
- Leg and ankle swelling
- Hypertension (high blood pressure)
- Presence of blood in urine (seen either by the eye, or microscopically)
- Pain in side or lower back
- Mass or lump in the abdomen
What causes kidney cancer?
The exact cause of renal cell cancer is not known. However, certain risk factors are known to be associated with it, including smoking, overuse of certain painkillers, long-term dialysis, exposure to asbestos or cadmium, being overweight and eating a diet high in fat. In addition, some genetic factors and diseases such as tuberous sclerosis may increase one’s risk. Renal cell carcinoma typically occurs in people over the age of 50 and is twice as likely to occur in men than in women.
How is kidney cancer diagnosed?
In most cases, renal cell cancer is found only after a person has some sort of symptom of a problem. Because there are no blood or urine tests to specifically screen for renal cell cancer, it is sometimes found by accident when a person is having tests for something else.
Signs and symptoms of renal cell carcinoma can include: -
- Blood in the urine
- Low back pain that is not caused by an injury
- Mass or lump in the abdomen
- Rapid, unexplained weight loss
- Fever that is unrelated to a cold, the flu or other infection
- Swelling of ankles and legs
- High blood pressure
How is kidney cancer staged?
Staging is the process of finding out how far the cancer has spread. It is very important because, to a large extent, treatment and outlook for recovery depend on the stage of the cancer. In general, the lower the number, the less the cancer has spread.
- Stage I : -The cancer has not spread and is only in the kidney.
- Stage II : -The cancer has spread to the fatty tissue around the kidney, but not to the capsule around the kidney.
- Stage III : -The cancer has spread to blood vessels or lymph nodes around the kidney.
- Stage IV : -The cancer has spread to nearby organs (like the bowel or pancreas) or to other places (like the lungs).
Treatment for kidney cancerStaging
To plan the best treatment, the doctor needs to know the stage (extent) of the disease. The stage is based on the size of the tumor, whether the cancer has spread and, if so, to what parts of the body.
Staging may involve imaging tests such as an ultrasound or a CT scan. The doctor also may use an MRI. For this test, a powerful magnet linked to a computer makes detailed pictures of organs and blood vessels.
Doctors describe kidney cancer by the following stages: -
- Stage I is an early stage of kidney cancer. The tumor measures up to 2 3/4 inches (7 centimeters). It is no bigger than a tennis ball. The cancer cells are found only in the kidney.
- Stage II is also an early stage of kidney cancer, but the tumor measures more than 2 3/4 inches. The cancer cells are found only in the kidney.
- Stage III is one of the following: The tumor does not extend beyond the kidney, but cancer cells have spread through the lymphatic system to one nearby lymph node; or The tumor has invaded the adrenal gland or the layers of fat and fibrous tissue that surround the kidney, but cancer cells have not spread beyond the fibrous tissue. Cancer cells may be found in one nearby lymph node; or The cancer cells have spread from the kidney to a nearby large blood vessel. Cancer cells may be found in one nearby lymph node.
- Stage IV is one of the following: The tumor extends beyond the fibrous tissue that surrounds the kidney; or Cancer cells are found in more than one nearby lymph node; or The cancer has spread to other places in the body such as the lungs.
- Recurrent cancer is cancer that has come back (recurred) after treatment. It may come back in the kidney or in another part of the body.
Many people with kidney cancer want to take an active part in making decisions about their medical care. They want to learn all they can about their disease and their treatment choices. However, shock and stress after the diagnosis can make it hard to think of everything they want to ask the doctor. It often helps to make a list of questions before an appointment. To help remember what the doctor says, people may take notes or ask whether they may use a tape recorder. Some also want to have a family member or friend with them when they talk to the doctor-to take part in the discussion, to take notes, or just to listen.
The doctor may refer the patient to a specialist, or the patient may ask for a referral. Specialists who treat kidney cancer include doctors who specialize in diseases of the urinary system (urologists) and doctors who specialize in cancer (medical oncologists and radiation oncologists).
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