About Kidney Cancer
The onset of kidney cancer rarely results in notable problems during its earliest stages. That makes the disease difficult to detect, at least without an open and active line of communication between doctor and patient. Though relatively silent, as a tumor grows, there will be signs and symptoms for you to note and report. One may begin to notice blood in urine, experience unintentional weight loss, or have back pain, which simply won't go away. The cancerous cells may also spread and metastasize into other organs, further complicating treatment.
Even so, if you detect and have kidney cancer treated early, the chances that you'll make a full recovery are excellent. However, in most cases, those possible symptoms of kidney cancer will be related to causes and (or) ailments other than cancer, renal infections for example, present many of the same symptoms. That's why detecting the diseases, if it occurs, requires open communication with your doctor. It'll be the only way to determine if your symptoms are signs of kidney cancer or the result of another disease.
There's a cliche that goes: "an once of prevention is worth a pound of cure" and it's never truer than when it's said about cancer. Even healthy people can benefit from regular examinations and screenings for kidney cancer. Individuals with high risk factors should be screened regularly. When kidney cancer is detected early, before symptoms have worsened, the chances of treating it successfully are better. It's often possible to treat early stage kidney cancer with surgery alone.
Kidney Cancer Facts
The kidneys are a pair of organs located at the back of your abdomen. They filter blood to remove bodily waste, which they convert into urine. From your kidneys, urine is carried into the bladder via a tube known as the ureter. When your bladder is full, urine passes out of your body through a tube called the urethra. The urethra opens at the tip of the penis in men and immediately in front of the vagina in women.
Kidney cancer is notably less common here in the United States than many other cancers, such as those related to the breast, lung or the prostate. The disease affects more men than women and occurs most commonly during and after middle age, though there is a rare type (known as nephroblastoma) that affects children. Carcinoma of the kidney affects 27,000 men and women in the U.S. each year. This may explain why so little attention has bee paid to the genetics and histology of renal carcinomas, until recently. Indeed, the last 10 years have produced major advancements in understanding the causes of kidney cancer, including the genetic basis.
Our research has shown us that as with most cancers, smoking cigarettes will statistically increase your risk of developing cancer of the kidney. Additionally, kidney cancer occurrence has been linked to occupational exposure to toxic materials and metals. For instance exposure to cadmium, asbestos and lead-based industrial paints increase one's risk of developing the disease. Furthermore, there are specific medical conditions, such as obesity, chronic kidney failure, diabetes or hypertension (which is to say: high blood pressure), which also increase peoples' risk of developing cancer of the kidney.
There is also a small segment of the population with an inherited condition known as Von Hippel-Lindau Syndrome (a multi-system disorder characterized by abnormal blood vessel growth) that have, as a result, a somewhat increased risk of developing kidney cancer. From time to time, certain types of kidney cancer can also occur in two or more members of the same family. Regularly consultations with a medical doctor and screening tests are essential for people with a family history of kidney cancer.
It's Rare for Cancer to Occur in Both Kidneys; Typically One Kidney will be Affected
Most of the cancers, roughly ninety-percent of malignant tumors that occur in kidneys, are collectively known as RCC cancers (renal cell cancers). They are also sometimes referred to as renal adenocarcinoma. There are a variety of subtypes of renal cell cancer that can be readily identified by simply examining the cells under a microscope. The most common variety of RCC cancer is clear cell cancer. The other, less common, varieties include papillary cancer (also known as chromophilic), chromophobic cancer, sarcomatoid cancer, collecting duct and oncocytic cancer. Like most cancers, renal cell carcinoma starts small and grows larger over time. Though RCC typically grows as a single mass within a kidney, a kidney may house more than one tumor. There is also a rare variety of kidney cancer known as TCC (transitional cell cancer), which grows in cells lining the pelvic area of the kidney.
It's especially important to remember that kidney cancer won't demonstrate with major symptoms in its early stages. By the time more serious symptoms appear, the tumor may be fairly large. That means that you're in the risk pool outlined in the above. Indeed, you'll need to be watchful. The most obvious symptom would be blood in your urine. Other symptoms can include:
- Fever that cannot be attributed to a cold or flu.
- Unusual low back pain.
- Chronic Fatigue.
- Unexplained weight loss.
- Swelling around the ankles or of legs (owing to the bodies impaired ability to rid itself of liquid waste).
In many, perhaps even most cases, kidney cancer symptoms can be attributed to other diseases, rather than renal carcinoma. It's essential to get regular medical examinations and tests to determine if your symptoms are indicators of kidney cancer, or other ailment.
Individualized Treatment Plans are Essential to Cure Kidney Cancer
Kidney cancer treatment plans must be individualized and take into account a patients' age, general health, family history, and medical condition. It's essential to identify the type and size of your tumor and whether or not it has begun to spread beyond the tissues of your kidney. In many cases, the best surgical remedy for cancer of the kidney is laparoscopic nephrectomy, a minimally invasive and complete removal of a kidney performed by a urologist. The urologist will typically remove the entire affected kidney, along with surrounding tissues. The operation will involve two small cuts into the skin and muscle of your abdomen. Of course, having a kidney removed is a major operation and prospect patients need to be reasonably fit to qualify. Because of the physical stress, even minimally invasive laparoscopic surgery may not be right for everyone.
Occasionally, if a tumor is small enough, the surgeon will only have to remove the tumor and the part of the kidney surrounding it. This is known as a partial nephrectomy.
A nomogram is a predictive tool for patients and physicians designed to help decide which treatment options are most suitable for the patient. It is a series of computerized devices which can be used in men who are at risk for kidney cancer, as well as those already diagnosed with the disease. For more information, visit Nomogram.org.
For additional information about kidney cancer, its diagnosis and care, or advice on complementary treatment methods, please don't hesitate to contact Dr. Scherr.