About Kidney Cancer

Cancer begins when cells in a specific part of the body begin to grow and multiply uncontrollably. When cancer starts in the tissues of the kidney, it results in kidney or renal cancer, one of the most common cancers in the UK. This cancer generally occurs in adults over 60 years. There are different types of kidney cancers depending upon where kidney cancer begins. Though the cause of kidney cancer is unknown, many factors like old age, smoking, obesity, unhealthy diet and heredity may increase your risk of developing the condition. If kidney cancer is diagnosed early, it can be cured completely. The five-year survival rate or kidney cancer life expectancy after five years of diagnosis is 75%. However, kidney cancer treatment options and prognosis depend upon the stage and spread of cancer.

Symptoms

In the early stages, kidney cancer shows no signs or symptoms. As the cancer advances, common symptoms of kidney cancer include:

  • Pain in the lower back or side.
  • A swelling or lump in the back or side.
  • Blood in urine.
  • Loss of appetite.
  • Sudden weight loss.
  • Recurrent fever and night sweats.
  • Low blood count (anaemia).
  • Swelling in the legs and ankles.
  • Increased blood pressure.

Diagnosis

Kidney cancers are usually found by chance during a routine physical examination or screening procedure. However, if you have one or more symptoms of kidney cancer, you should get it checked out by your doctor immediately. Though there are no routine laboratory tests that help diagnose this cancer, some diagnostic tests that your doctor or urologist (a urinary system specialist) may recommend are:

  • Blood tests.
  • Urine analysis.
  • Creatinine level and kidney function tests.
  • Ultrasound of the kidneys.
  • Imaging tests like CT urogram (CT scan of the urinary system) and MRI to evaluate any abnormal growth in the kidneys.
  • A bone scan and a chest x-ray may be recommended to evaluate the spread of cancer to other parts of the body.
  • Biopsy of the kidney mass to confirm the type of tumour.

 

Symptoms and diagnostic tests guide your doctor and healthcare team about how to treat kidney cancer.

Treatment

If you have been diagnosed with kidney cancer, your doctor and healthcare team will discuss your treatment plan with you. Kidney cancer treatment options can be broadly classified as Localised and Systemic treatments. Localised treatments effectively treat early-stage kidney cancers that have not spread outside the organ. These include surgery, ablation and local therapy and radiation therapy. 

 

In stage 3 or stage 4 kidney cancer (advanced stages), systemic treatments like chemotherapy, immunotherapy, and targeted therapy may be the treatment of choice. Sometimes, treatments may be given as combination therapy depending upon the cancer stage, spread, age and overall health of the patient.

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