Cancer, kidney

Other names: Renal cell carcinoma

DEFINITION

Kidney cancer is Cancer that originates in the kidneys. Your kidneys are two bean-shaped organs, each about the size of your fist. They're located behind your abdominal organs, with one kidney on each side of your spine.

In adults, the most common type of Kidney cancer is renal cell carcinoma. Other less common types of Kidney cancer can occur. Young children are more likely to develop a kind of Kidney cancer called Wilms' tumor.

The incidence of Kidney cancer seems to be increasing. One reason for this may be the fact that imaging techniques such as computerized tomography (CT) scan are being used more often. These tests may lead to the accidental discovery of more Kidney cancers.

SYMPTOMS

Kidney cancer rarely causes signs or symptoms in its early stages. In the later stages, Kidney cancer signs and symptoms may include:

When to see a doctor: Make an appointment with your doctor if you have any persistent signs or symptoms that worry you.

CAUSES

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.

RISK FACTORS

Factors that can increase the risk of Kidney cancer include:

PREPARING FOR YOUR APPOINTMENT

Start by seeing your family doctor or a general practitioner if you have signs or symptoms that worry you. If your doctor suspects you may have Kidney cancer, you may be referred to a doctor who specializes in urinary tract diseases and conditions (urologist) or to a doctor who treats Cancer (oncologist).

Because appointments can be brief, and because there's often a lot of ground to cover, it's a good idea to be prepared. Here's some information to help you get ready and what to expect from your doctor.

What you can do:

QUESTIONS

  1. What are the common symptoms of kidney cancer?

Blood in urine, back pain, weight loss, fatigue, intermittent fever.

  1. What are some risk factors for developing kidney cancer?

Older age, smoking, obesity, high blood pressure, certain inherited syndromes.

  1. How is kidney cancer diagnosed?

Through blood and urine tests, imaging tests like CT scans, and sometimes by removing a sample of kidney tissue (biopsy).

  1. What are the different stages of kidney cancer?

Stage I, Stage II, Stage III, Stage IV based on how far the Cancer has spread.

  1. What is the standard treatment for kidney cancer?

Surgery is the standard treatment for most cases of Kidney cancer.

  1. What are some alternative treatments when surgery isn't possible?

Cryoablation and radiofrequency ablation may be options for those who can't undergo surgery.

  1. How is advanced and recurrent kidney cancer treated?

Treatments may include surgery, biological therapy, targeted therapy, and radiation therapy.

  1. How can lifestyle changes help reduce the risk of kidney cancer?

Quitting smoking, maintaining a healthy weight, and controlling high blood pressure can help reduce risk.

  1. Are there proven alternative medicine treatments for kidney cancer?

No complementary and alternative therapies have been proved to successfully treat Kidney cancer.

  1. How can one cope with a diagnosis of kidney cancer?

By learning about the diagnosis, taking care of oneself during treatment, gathering support from friends and family, and setting aside time for self-care activities.