Kidney Cancer

What Is Kidney Cancer?

Cancer is when cells in the body grow out of control. These cells can form a tumor or damaged tissue. If cancer cells grow in the kidney, it is called kidney cancer. Otherwise referred to as renal cancer.

This is a disease in which kidney cells become malignant (cancerous) and grow out of control, thus forming a tumor. Almost all kidney cancers first appear in the lining of tiny tubes (tubules) in the kidney. This type of kidney cancer is called renal cell carcinoma.

The good news is that most of kidney cancers are found before they spread (metastasize) to distant organs. And cancers caught early are easier to treat successfully. However, these tumors can grow to be quite large before they are detected.

The kidneys are two bean-shaped organs, each about the size of a fist. They lie in your lower abdomen on each side of your spine. Their main job is to clean your blood, removing waste products and making urine.

risk factors for kidney cancer:

  • Smoking . If you smoke cigarettes, your risk for kidney cancer is twice that of nonsmokers. Smoking cigars may also increase your risk.
  • Being male. Men are about twice as likely as women to get kidney cancer.
  • Being obese. Extra weight may cause changes to hormones that increase your risk.
  • Using certain pain medications for a long time. This includes over-the-counter drugs in addition to prescription drugs.
  • Having advanced kidney disease or being on long-term dialysis, a treatment for people with kidneys that have stopped working
  • Having certain genetic conditions, such as von Hippel-Lindau (VHL) disease or inherited papillary renal cell carcinoma
  • Having a family history of kidney cancer. The risk is especially high in siblings.
  • Being exposed to certain chemicals, such as asbestos, cadmium, benzene, organic solvents, or certain herbicides
  • Having high blood pressure. Doctors don’t know whether high blood pressure or medication used to treat it is the source of the increased risk.
  • Having lymphoma. For an unknown reason, there is an increased risk of kidney cancer in patients with lymphoma.

Some Symptoms of Kidney Cancer:

Kidney tumors may not hurt or show any signs. Sometimes a growth in the kidney can cause:

  • Blood in the urine
  • Pain in the side, abdomen or back that doesn’t go away
  • A lump in your abdomen
  • Loss of appetite and weight loss for no known reason
  • Anemia and fatigue

If cancer spreads (metastasizes) beyond the kidney, symptoms depend upon where it spreads. Short breath or coughing-up blood may occur when cancer is in the lung. Bone pain or fracture may occur when cancer is in the bone. Neurologic symptoms may occur when cancer is in the brain.

Grading and Staging

If cancer cells are found, your doctor will need to know the tumor stage and grade. The stage is a category used to rank how much the cancer has grown and/or spread. For kidney cancer, the “TNM” staging system is often used. The grade is a way to rank how quickly the cancer is growing. The Fuhrman grading system is often used. A carefully diagnosed grade and stage will help your health care team find the best treatment.

Treatment options for Kidney Cancer

The treatment plan that you choose with your doctor depends on many things:

  • Tumor grade and stage
  • Your age
  • Your overall health and health history
  • Your anatomy (the anatomy of your kidney collection system)

Options include:

  • Watch and Wait (Active Surveillance)
  • Renal tumor ablation (freeze or heat)
  • Surgery to remove the tumor(s)
  • Targeted therapy to kill cancer cells
  • Immunotherapy/biologic therapy to kill cancer cells
  • Chemotherapy
  • Radiation to relieve pain and symptoms
  • A clinical trial to try a new treatment