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Home >> Specialities >> Cancer Care >> Kidney cancer

Kidney cancer

Kidney cancer, also known as renal cell carcinoma, is a type of cancer that originates in the kidneys, the bean-shaped organs responsible for filtering waste from the blood. While kidney cancer can occur in both adults and children, it is most commonly diagnosed in adults, particularly those over the age of 40. Understanding the underlying causes, recognizing the symptoms, seeking accurate diagnosis, and exploring available treatment options are crucial for individuals affected by kidney cancer.

Causes of Kidney Cancer
The exact cause of kidney cancer is not fully understood, but several risk factors have been identified:

  • Tobacco Use: Smoking is a significant risk factor for kidney cancer. Smokers are at a higher risk compared to non-smokers.
  • Hypertension (High Blood Pressure): Chronic high blood pressure has been associated with an increased risk of kidney cancer.
  • Obesity: Individuals who are overweight or obese have a higher risk of developing kidney cancer.
  • Family History: Individuals with a family history of kidney cancer are at an increased risk, especially if a first-degree relative has been diagnosed.
  • Certain Genetic Conditions: Hereditary conditions, such as von Hippel-Lindau disease, hereditary papillary renal cell carcinoma, and Birt-Hogg-Dubé syndrome, can predispose individuals to kidney cancer.
  • Occupational Exposures: Certain workplace exposures to chemicals like asbestos, cadmium, or trichloroethylene may increase the risk.

Symptoms of Kidney Cancer
In the early stages, kidney cancer may not cause noticeable symptoms. However, as the cancer progresses, individuals may experience:

  • Blood in Urine (Hematuria): This may cause the urine to appear pink, red, or cola-colored.
  • Lower Back Pain or Side Pain: Persistent pain on one side of the lower back or abdomen may be a symptom.
  • Lump or Mass in the Abdomen: Some individuals may feel a lump or swelling in the area of the kidney.
  • Fatigue: Generalized fatigue, weakness, and a feeling of unwellness may occur.
  • Unexplained Weight Loss: Significant weight loss without diet or exercise changes can be a sign of advanced kidney cancer.
  • Loss of Appetite: A decreased desire to eat or unexplained loss of appetite may be experienced.
  • Fever and Night Sweats: In some cases, kidney cancer can lead to fever and sweating, especially at night.
  • High Blood Pressure (Hypertension): Elevated blood pressure may be associated with kidney cancer.


Diagnosis of Kidney Cancer

  • Physical Examination: A healthcare provider may conduct a thorough physical examination, including a palpation of the abdomen to check for any abnormalities.
  • Blood and Urine Tests: These tests can help identify any abnormalities or markers that may be indicative of kidney cancer.
  • Imaging Studies:
  • Ultrasound: This imaging test uses sound waves to create images of the kidneys, helping to identify any masses or abnormalities.
  • Computed Tomography (CT) Scan: A more detailed imaging study that provides cross-sectional images of the kidneys and surrounding structures.
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI): This imaging technique uses powerful magnets and radio waves to create detailed images of the kidneys.
  • Biopsy: A tissue sample may be taken from the kidney using a needle, and examined under a microscope to confirm the presence of cancer and determine its type.

Stages of Kidney Cancer
Kidney cancer is staged based on the size of the tumor, whether it has spread to nearby lymph nodes, and whether it has metastasized (spread) to other parts of the body. The stages range from I to IV, with higher stages indicating more advanced disease.

Treatment Options for Kidney Cancer
The choice of treatment for kidney cancer depends on several factors, including the type and stage of cancer, the individual's overall health, and personal preferences. Treatment options may include:

  • Partial Nephrectomy: Removal of the tumor and a portion of the healthy tissue surrounding it.
  • Radical Nephrectomy: Removal of the entire kidney, nearby lymph nodes, and surrounding tissues.
  • Minimally Invasive Procedures: Laparoscopic Surgery: A less invasive surgical technique using small incisions and specialized tools.
  • Robotic-Assisted Surgery: The surgeon uses a robotic system for precision during the procedure.
  • Radiation Therapy: External Beam Radiation Therapy (EBRT): High-energy X-rays are directed at the cancer cells.
  • Targeted Therapy: Drugs that specifically target certain proteins involved in cancer growth.
  • Immunotherapy: Drugs that stimulate the body's immune system to recognize and attack cancer cells.
  • Chemotherapy: Systemic drugs that circulate throughout the body to target and kill cancer cells.
  • Cryoablation: Freezing of cancer cells to destroy them.
  • Radiofrequency Ablation (RFA): High-energy radio waves are used to heat and destroy cancer cells.

Kidney cancer is a complex disease with numerous risk factors, symptoms, and treatment options. Early detection through regular screening and prompt medical attention can significantly improve outcomes. Advances in research and treatment have led to better survival rates, and many individuals with kidney cancer go on to live long and fulfilling lives. A multidisciplinary approach involving healthcare providers, support networks, and patient advocacy organizations is crucial in the battle against kidney cancer. With proper care and support, individuals with kidney cancer can navigate their journey with hope and determination.

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