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
Treatment depends on your age, your overall health and how advanced the cancer is. It might include surgery, radiation, chemotherapy or biologic therapy. Biologic therapy boosts your body's own ability to fight cancer.
Kidney Cancer Symptoms
There 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
It's not clear what causes renal cell carcinoma. Doctors know that kidney cancer begins when some kidney cells acquire mutations in their DNA. The mutations tell the cells to grow and divide rapidly. The accumulating abnormal cells form a tumor that can extend beyond the kidney. Some cells can break off and spread (metastasize) to distant parts of the body.
Factors that can increase the risk of kidney cancer include:
- Older age. Your risk of kidney cancer increases as you age.
- Being male. Men are more likely to develop kidney cancer.
- Smoking. Smokers have a greater risk of kidney cancer than nonsmokers do. The risk decreases after you quit.
- Obesity. People who are obese have a higher risk of kidney cancer than do people who are considered average weight.
- High blood pressure (hypertension). High blood pressure increases your risk of kidney cancer, but it isn't clear why.
- Chemicals in your workplace. Workers who are exposed to certain chemicals on the job may have a higher risk of kidney cancer. People who work with chemicals such as asbestos and cadmium may have an increased risk of kidney cancer.
- Treatment for kidney failure. People who receive long-term dialysis to treat chronic kidney failure have a greater risk of developing kidney cancer.
- Von Hippel-Lindau disease. People with this inherited disorder are likely to develop several kinds of tumors, including, in some cases, kidney cancer.
- Hereditary papillary renal cell carcinoma. Having this inherited condition makes it more likely you'll develop one or more kidney cancers.
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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