Kidney cancer is caused due to the development of tumor cells in the nephron and other kidney tissues. Its symptoms include bloody urine, back pain, fatigue, and weight loss. If diagnosed at the right time, it can be treated by surgical removal of the affected portion or the kidney.
Kidneys are a pair of bean-shaped organs located on each of the spinal column in the lower abdomen. Kidneys perform a multitude of functions, some of which include, removal of waste and toxins from the bloodstream, controlling blood pressure, and maintaining the electrolyte concentration. Like any other organs of the body, the kidneys are susceptible to the development of malignant cells or cancer. There are several types of this cancer that have been detected while performing the diagnostic procedures for other health conditions. Men are at a higher risk of developing this cancer than women. Overall, more than 50,000 Americans are diagnosed with kidney cancer every year.
Causes and Symptoms
The exact cause of this cancer has not been identified as yet. Medical researchers are of the opinion that frequent exposure to chemical toxins, smoking, and side effects of medications are the triggering factors for the development of this cancer. People who smoke, have 2-4 times higher risk of getting this cancer than the non-smokers. In addition, other risk factors include, age, sex, occupation, kidney problems, prolonged dialysis, obesity, hypertension, and certain genetic disorders.
In children, the most common form of kidney cancer is Wilms’ tumor, whereas renal cell carcinoma (RCC) and transitional cell carcinoma are mostly observed among adults. In case of RCC, tumor cells develop in the lining of the nephron, while in transitional cell carcinoma, tumor cells are present in the tubes that connect the kidney and bladder. More than 85 percent cases of this disease in adults are of renal cell carcinoma.
Kidney cancer does not cause any noticeable symptoms in the early stages. As the disease progresses, the symptoms like bloody urine, recurrent fever, increased fatigue, loss of appetite, weight loss, lump in the abdomen, and back pain may be manifested. The disease may spread from one affected kidney to another and other organs such as lungs, liver, and bones. The lymph nodes adjacent to the affected kidney may be enlarged. When it spreads to other organs, then it is referred to as metastatic kidney cancer.
Diagnosis and Treatment
Early diagnosis is usually rare, as there are no significant symptoms. It may be diagnosed accidentally while performing the imaging tests like computed tomography for other underlying diseases. If the physician suspects for any type of kidney cancer, he may perform certain diagnostic tests, like, urinalysis, blood tests, biopsy, chest X-ray, ultrasound, MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) scan, intravenous pyelogram (IVP), and bone scan.
Based on the diagnosis results, the physician assigns stages of the cancer; stage I is when the tumor is small and present in the kidney, stage II is a large tumor in the kidney, stage III is characterized by spreading of cancer to nearby tissues other than kidney, and stage IV is when tumor spreads to distant organs of the body.
Treatment is based on the stage, type of cancer, and the overall health of the patient. For stage I and II, the effective treatment option is surgical removal of the tumor (nephron-sparing surgery) or the kidney as a whole (nephrectomy). If surgical procedure is risky, the physician may conduct cryoablation, embolization, radiation therapy, chemotherapy, and target therapy in order to treat the affected area, and prevent the spreading of tumor.
The treatment procedures may be accompanied with biological therapy that aims in stimulating the immune system. One should consult with the physician about the pros and cons of the available treatment options before opting for any one of them. It is always advisable to opt for healthy lifestyle, and quit smoking in order to prevent the development of this disease.