Kidney Cancer

Kidney Cancer

Overview of Kidney Cancer

Kidney cancer is a cancer that originates in the kidneys. In adults, the most common type of kidney cancer is renal cell carcinoma. There are a variety of kidney cancers that may occur. Kidney cancer seems to be increasing. One reason is because of the better testing for kidney cancer. CT scans are being used more often, and in many cases lead to the accidental discovery of kidney cancer. If kidney cancer is found in the early stages, then it is easier to treat.

About the Kidneys

The kidneys are two-bean shaped organs. They are about the size of your fist and are located right behind the abdominal organs. The kidneys are on either side of the spine.

Symptoms of Kidney Cancer

Kidney cancer does not start showing symptoms until the later stages. There is no routine test to screen for kidney cancer if there are no symptoms seen. In the later stages, symptoms may include:

  • Intermittent fever
  • Blood in the urine that is pink, cola, or red colored
  • No appetite
  • Pain in the back or side
  • Fatigue
  • Weight loss

You will want to schedule an appointment with our physicians if any of these signs or symptoms begin to worry about. It is best to schedule an appointment for this and find kidney cancer as soon as possible. The sooner kidney cancer is diagnosed, the easier treatment will be.

Causes of Kidney Cancer

There is no real cause of kidney cancer, but there are many risk factors (below) that may lead to kidney cancer. Kidney cancer begins when the cells in the kidney begin to mutate their DNA. The mutation causes the cells to grow and divide very fast.

Risk Factors of Kidney Cancer

There are many risk factors that are associated with kidney cancer. The risk of kidney cancer increases with age, so kidney cancer is typically found in older people. There are many lifestyles that will lead to an increased risk of kidney cancer too. People that smoke are at a higher risk for kidney cancer than nonsmokers. The risk will begin to significantly decrease if you are able to quit smoking. It is also important to eat a healthy diet, as those that are obese have a higher risk of kidney cancer than those that are average. Those with high blood pressure are at an increased risk.

Genetics also plays a large part in the development of kidney cancer. If kidney cancer runs in your family, then you are also at a higher risk for kidney cancer. Some people are also born with inherited syndromes that will put you at a higher risk for kidney cancer.

Treatment for kidney failure can also be the cause of kidney cancer in some cases. Also, some herbicides that people are exposed to at work increase the chances.

Prevention of Kidney Cancer

The first step to preventing kidney cancer is to quit smoking if you are currently a smoker. If you need help with quitting, then ask your physician for help. There are many products or support groups that can help you with this.

The next step is to get your weight under control. Work to get to a good weight for you and maintain it. If you are overweight, then it is important to reduce the number of calories that you consume and also to get active. When you are trying to lose weight, ask your physician for help and advice for doing so in a healthy manner.

If you have high blood pressure, then ask your physician to check it out. If it is high, ask the physician for the best way to lower the blood pressure. In most cases, lifestyle changes can make the difference. In other cases, a medication may be necessary to lower these numbers.

Diagnosis of Kidney Cancer

There are a couple of way to diagnose kidney cancer. The first test is a blood and urine test. Through these tests, your physician will be able to see what is happening and causing the symptoms you are experiencing

An imaging test will let your physician see if there is a kidney tumor or any type of abnormality. An imaging test may be an ultrasound, MRI, or a CT scan.

In very rare cases, your physician may need a biopsy, or a small sample of cells from the area of kidney. This sample is sent to the lab to check for cancer.

Stages of Kidney Cancer

Once your physician identifies that you have kidney cancer, it is important to see what stage the cancer is in. To determine which stage the cancer is, another CT scan or various imaging tests may be ordered. There are four stages of kidney cancer.

  1. The first stage is when the tumor is less than 7 centimeters and it is confined to the kidney.
  2. The second stage is larger than the first stage, and it is still only found in the kidney.
  3. During the third stage, the tumor is found outside of the kidney as well. Typically, it will spread to the surrounding lymph nodes.
  4. In the fourth stage, the cancer is still outside of the kidney, and it found in multiple lymph nodes, or to distant places such as the lungs, liver, and bones.

Diagnosis of Kidney Cancer

Once cancer has been diagnosed and categorized into a stage, your physician will speak to you about the best treatment options for you. There are many factors that will go into this decision including: stage of cancer, where cancer is found, your preferences, and your general health.

Surgery is the main type of treatment for kidney cancer. The goal for surgery is to remove the tumor while also making sure that the kidneys will maintain normal function. There are two main types of surgery which are called a nephrectomy and a partial nephrectomy. A nephrectomy is the process of removing the affected kidney.

A nephrectomy can also be called a radical nephrectomy. During this surgery, the physician removes the entire kidney, and any other tissues. This is done through a small incision in the abdomen, called an open nephrectomy, or a series of smaller incisions in the abdomen, called a laparoscopic or robotic-assisted laparoscopic nephrectomy.

A partial nephrectomy, also called nephron-sparing surgery or kidney-sparing, is done when the surgeon removes the tumor and a small amount of tissues that are in the kidney. It can be done through a small incision or series of small incisions, just like the radical nephrectomy. Typically, once surgery is done and the cancer had been confined to the kidney, there is no other treatment that is necessary. Follow up is mandatory to ensure the cancer does not return.

For those that are not able to go through surgery, there are many other options that are available. If the cancer is not very large, then a treatment called cryoablation may be recommended. Cryoablation is also known as freezing the cancer cells. It works by a hollow needle being inserted through the skin and into the kidney tumor using image guidance. Cold gas in the needle is used to freeze the cancer cells.

Radiofrequency ablation is a treatment that is used to heat the cancer cells. During this, a probe is inserted through the skin and into the kidney tumor using imaging guidance. The needle then runs an electrical current which will burn the cancer cells.

Lastly, there are many other treatments that are specific to people that have a more advanced cancer or those that have recurrent kidney cancer. If surgery cannot remove all of the cancer, it may be helpful to remove parts of the cancer. Surgery may also need to remove cancer that is spread to other parts of the body.

Biological therapy is also called immunotherapy and can help the body to fight the cancer.

Radiation therapy is done by using high-powered energy beams to kill the cancer cells. In some cases, they are used to control or even reduce the symptoms of kidney cancer when it has spread to other parts of the body.

Targeted therapy is used to block specific signals that are present in the kidney cancer cells which are allowing them to multiply. These drugs are usually helpful in not allowing the cancer to spread to other parts of the body.

Support with Kidney Cancer

The first step after your diagnosis, is to learn more about your diagnosis. Ask your physician plenty of questions. Begin a journal and write down the information your physician gives you. You should also write down any questions you think of for your next appointment. It is also important to take care of yourself and also to take time for yourself. Your friends and family will also want to help you. Be open to talking to them about your thoughts and feelings. If you begin to feel overwhelmed, then it is best to go and get mental health counseling.

Summary of Kidney Cancer

Kidney cancer is a cancer that begins in the kidneys. There are four various stages of the cancer and treatment will depend on the stage, your health, and your preferences. It is so important to maintain regular treatments and follow ups, but to also find people that can relate to what you are going through.

Request An Appointment

To request an appointment with Urology, call 251-343-9090. To request an appointment with Radiation Oncology, call 251-414-5665.

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