Kidney Cancer

1 What is Kidney Cancer?

Kidney cancer originates in kidneys itself. Kidneys are bean-shaped organs located behind abdominal organs, with one kidney on each side of the spine.

Renal cell carcinoma is more common in adults while Wilms' tumor is more likely in children. The number of kidney cancer patients has increased as the diagnostic process has become more sophisticated than in the previous days.

Imaging techniques such as computerized tomography (CT) scan have been more successful to discover kidney cancers in recent days throughout the world.

2 Symptoms

Early stages of kidney cancer can merely be diagnosed as sign and symptoms are often experienced in later stages only.

Blood in urine, the frequent back pain just below the ribs followed by weight loss, fatigue, and intermittent fever are signs to be noted.

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3 Causes

Causes of kidney cancer are still a mystery to the scientists. However, it is certain that kidney cancer begins with kidney cells acquiring mutations in their DNA.

These cells can grow, divides rapidly and has high chance of spreading to the surrounding cells, tissues and other distant body parts.

4 Making a Diagnosis

During diagnosis of kidney cancer, doctor seeks information about your symptoms. It is wise of you to write down symptoms you're experiencing, personal information, lists of all medications, vitamins or supplements that you are currently administering.

Do not let yourself down on hearing the word cancer. It is obvious to answer the questions asked by your doctor regarding the signs and symptoms.

Give right information on first noticed pain, exposure to herbicides or pesticides, your sources of drinking water and your current medications if any. Tell your doctor frankly if you are a smoker or alcoholic.

Tests and procedures used to diagnose kidney cancer are as follows:

  • Blood and urine tests: Such tests are useful to get a general overview of signs and symptoms of the disease as well as its causes.
  • Imaging tests. Imaging tests such as ultrasound, computerized tomography (CT) scan or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) helps to find out any abnormalities present within kidneys including any unwanted growths.
  • Biopsy: It involves removing a small sample of cells from a doubtful part of the kidney and testing it in a lab to look for signs of cancer.
  • Kidney cancer staging: After running sequential tests, a doctor will be able to determine the stage of cancer you are going through. The primary stage also called stage I cancer has a tumor measuring up to 7 centimeters in diameter. The tumor is restricted within the kidney. The second stage has a larger size tumor but not yet spread to other body parts. However, stage III differs as the cancer cells start to diffuse to the surrounding tissues. The final stage is stage IV when the cancer cells migrate beyond the kidney to the surrounding tissue as well as other distant body parts such as the bones, liver, and lungs.

5 Treatment

A better treatment plan can make a patient’s life easier as well it helps in faster recovery from the harsh physical condition brought about by kidney cancer.

It is wise to discuss anything regarding your physiological status all the time during the treatment period as treatment approaches are based on stages of cancer and health status of the patient.

Some of the approaches are as follows:

  • Surgery: It is simply cutting and throwing away of the affected kidney or surrounding areas. Surgical procedures vary depending upon the need of area to be segregated or removed. One of the processes is Nephrectomy where kidney as a whole or a border of healthy tissue and the adjacent lymph nodes or adrenal glands may be removed. the whole process can be carried out in two major ways where one of the processes is an open operation that needs a large incision to be made to access the infected kidney whereas, another method is called the laparoscopic method which is computer assisted process requiring several small incisions to be done to insert a video camera and tiny surgical tools. Video monitoring is possible during nephrectomy which helps to carry out complicated procedures with high precision. Similarly, partial nephrectomy can be done where a surgeon removes the tumor and some layers of healthy tissues surrounding it and the whole process is termed Nephron-sparing surgery.
  • Cryoablation: This process is suitable for the patients with small tumor and those who cannot undergo surgical treatments. During the process, a special needle filled with gas is inserted into the kidney tumor using X-ray guidance. Gas within the needle is allowed to cool down which in turn freezes the tumor cells in the kidney.
  • Radiofrequency ablation: This process is suitable for the patients with small tumor and those who cannot undergo surgical treatments. During the process, a special needle is inserted into the kidney tumor using X-ray guidance. An electrical current is passed through the needle causing the cells to heat up or burn. This process is less frequently used to cure the recurring tumors however, it can be used in conjugation with the surgical process for an effective treatment plan.
  • Biological therapy: Drugs like interferon and Proleukin uses body's immune system to fight against cancer. However, such synthetic drugs are often associated with side effects such as chills, fever, nausea, vomiting and loss of appetite.
  • Targeted therapy: This method is focused on preventing the proliferation of cancer cells. Few drugs like axitinib (Inlyta), bevacizumab (Avastin), pazopanib (Votrient), sorafenib (Nexavar) and sunitinib (Sutent) block the growth of blood vessels that provide nutrients to cancer cells and holds back cancer cells from spreading to distant parts. Similarly, drugs such as Temsirolimus (Torisel) and everolimus (Afinitor) are targeted drugs that prohibit cancer cells to grow and survive.
  • Radiation therapy. The principle of radiation therapy is the use of high-powered energy beams such as X-rays to kill cancer cells. Radiation therapy can also be used to control or reduce symptoms of advanced kidney cancer that have metastasized to distant body parts, such as the bones.

6 Prevention

Improving health status may help prevent the risk of kidney cancer.

Measures to prevent the risk of kidney cancer include:

  • Quit smoking: Support programs, medications, and nicotine replacement products can help quit smoking.
  • Maintain a healthy weight: Know if you're overweight or obese and reduce the number of calories you consume each day. Adopt some strategies to help lose weight.
  • Maintaining blood pressure within normal range: Exercise, weight loss, and diet changes can help control high blood pressure. Some may need to take medications to lower their increased blood pressure.

7 Alternative and Homeopathic Remedies

Apparently, no complementary and alternative remedies exist in successfully treating kidney cancer.

However, few complementary and alternative medicine may help to cope with signs and symptoms. Such therapies are as follows:

  • Art therapy
  • Dance or movement therapy
  • Exercises
  • Meditation
  • Music therapy
  • Relaxation techniques
  • Exercises

8 Lifestyle and Coping

Few tips to standardize your lifestyle to cope with the existing kidney cancer are as follows:

  • Find a good source of knowledge like books, information centers or any reliable sources to know about the disease and assist your doctor in preparing an effective treatment plan.
  • Stay positive and gather a supportive network of friends and family.
  • Focus on a balanced diet, include fruits and vegetables in the diet and do exercise to stay fit.
  • Set aside time for yourself each day. Reading books, relaxing or listening to music can help relieve your stress.

9 Risks and Complications

Following factors may increase the risk of kidney cancer:

  • Older age: Risk increases with your increasing age.
  • Smoking: Smokers are at greater risk.
  • Obesity: People who are obese are at higher risk.
  • High blood pressure (hypertension): People with high blood pressure have increased a risk of kidney cancer.
  • Treatment for kidney failure: People who receive long-term dialysis to treat chronic kidney failure are at greater risk for developing kidney cancer.
  • Certain inherited syndromes: People born with certain inherited syndromes such as von Hippel-Lindau disease, Birt-Hogg-Dube syndrome, tuberous sclerosis and familial papillary renal cell carcinoma are more susceptible to develop kidney cancer.
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