Kidney cancer is a disease that originates in the kidneys. As the body’s cells multiply, the cancer can spread throughout the body. Our kidneys’ primary role is filtering the body’s blood, and sometimes, kidneys can internally develop growths or tumors. The masses are not necessarily cancerous, but they can be. If you are experiencing symptoms of kidney cancer or growths, visit your physician as soon as possible. Early diagnosis and lead to quick and effective treatment.
Most people find that they do not notice symptoms of kidney masses in the early stages of growth. If you encounter any symptoms, they may include:
Doctors discover kidney masses by chance more than 50% of the time. A medical professional may find a mass during an unrelated visit or generic health screening. Make sure that you stay up to date with your annual medical check-ups. If you notice any of these symptoms, make an appointment with a professional.
Doctors do not perform routine laboratory tests to look for any kidney masses. If you experience any symptoms, you can ask your healthcare provider about your options. There are certain tests or procedures that your doctor may explore to better understand your kidneys. These may involve:
Before determining next steps for tests and examinations, consult a medical professional. A doctor will likely recommend additional steps designed to specifically accommodate your medical needs.
A number of factors can lead to developing kidney cancer. Individuals who have a close family history of kidney cancer have a higher risk of inheriting the disease. Additional risk factors can include:
If you fit into these categories, familiarize yourself with the facts. The best course of action is to speak with your healthcare provider about concerns you may have about your long-term health.
It remains unclear what causes most kidney cancers. Kidney cancer starts when some of the kidney cells mutate. The abnormal cells can go beyond the kidney. Once they break off to spread (or metastasize) in other parts of the body, it can lead to further complications and health concerns.
The health complications appear differently for everyone. An individual’s treatment will ultimately depend on the type of kidney cancer prevalent in their body. The types of kidney cancer are:
Renal cell carcinoma. RCC is the most common type of kidney cancer. About nine out of 10 cases of kidney cancer fall under the type of renal cell carcinoma. When you visit your doctor, RCC may look different for you than a past family member who had the same type of kidney cancer. RCC typically develops as a single tumor inside of a kidney. However, you may have two or more tumors located in one kidney or have tumors simultaneously in both. Finding out the subtype of RCC will determine your treatment plan.
Transitional cell carcinoma. The type of kidney cancer does not start in the kidney. It starts in the lining of the renal pelvis. Similar to bladder cancer, cigarette smoking and exposure to some cancer-causing chemicals can cause the cancer. Common signs of TCC include back pain and blood in the urine.
Wilms tumor (nephroblastoma). Wilms tumors are incredibly rare among adults. Most often, the type of cancer occurs in children.
Renal sarcoma. The type of kidney cancer is rare and begins in the connective kidney tissue. It can also begin in the blood vessels. Cases of renal sarcoma account for less than 1% of kidney cancers.
Like all forms of cancer, additional complications can vary depending on several factors. Early discovery and consulting with your doctor can influence the overall outcome of a diagnosis. If left untreated, complications can include:
Your healthcare professional’s main goals when treating kidney cancer will be to remove the cancer and preserve the kidney’s function. Protecting kidney function is increasingly crucial when patients only have one kidney. Some doctors may recommend surgery for kidney cancer. Other times, patients may never need surgery and instead doctors will order a biopsy. The four follow-up treatment options are:
Making lifestyle changes to improve your health may lessen the risk of developing kidney cancer. The main ways to reduce your kidney cancer risk are:
Stop smoking. Look into support programs and nicotine replacement products. Before doing either option, make sure to speak with a doctor about healthy and effective ways to quit.
Maintain a healthy weight. Talk with your healthcare provider about healthy methods of losing weight. For some people, it may mean reducing the number of calories consumed per day. For others, it can involve increasing physical activity throughout the week.
Monitor and control blood pressure. Make note of your blood pressure during your next doctor’s visit. If the numbers are high, ask your doctor about options moving forward. Your doctor will determine whether you need to go on any medications.
Anyone who is experiencing symptoms of kidney cancer should see a doctor. When treated in a timely manner, the outcome can significantly change. If the cancer progresses and both kidneys are involved, the outlook will be more serious. Kidney cancer commonly spreads to the lungs.
The outlook ultimately depends upon the progression of the cancer and the treatment’s efficacy. The survival rate is higher if the tumor has not left the kidney. Once it hits other organs and the lymph nodes, the survival rate declines.