Everything you must know about kidney cancer – risk factors, symptoms and treatment
Kidney cancer or renal cancer is a disease where kidney cells become malignant (cancerous). These cells form a tumor. Kidney cancer typically appears in the tubules of the kidney and is commonly known as renal cell carcinoma. Fortunately, kidney cancer can usually be detected at an early stage before it spreads to other organs. Early diagnosis means that it can be successfully treated, but almost always, these tumors grow quite large before being detected.
Kidneys are very important to purify blood and help in excreting wastes to make urine. Even though doctors haven’t found what exactly causes kidney cancer, there are certain risk factors that can trigger this type of cancer.
1 Risk factors
These factors do not indicate kidney cancer definitely, they are just risk factors. People who are not close to these factors may also be prone to kidney cancer. People over 40 years are more prone to kidney cancer than their younger counterparts. Some of the other risk factors are listed below.
Smoking – smoking cigarettes or cigars can double your risk of getting the disease than those who don’t smoke.
Being a male – Men are more prone to renal cancer than women.
Obesity – Being obese causes hormones to change which can put you at risk of getting kidney cancer.
Advanced kidney ailments – if you are already suffering from kidney ailments and are going through dialysis (a treatment to make the kidneys work artificially when they stop working on their own.)
Genetic condition – people who have a genetic condition like Hippel-Lindau (VHL) disease or inherited papillary renal cell carcinoma.
Family history – like any other disease, kidney cancer can be triggered due to family history of the disease, especially among siblings.
Exposure to certain chemicals – If you are exposed to chemicals like asbestos, cadmium, benzene, organic solvents, or certain herbicides.
High blood pressure – Doctors haven’t been able to determine whether it is blood pressure or the blood pressure medication that acts as a potential risk.
2 Symptoms of kidney cancer
Most people don’t experience any kind of symptoms until the tumors have enlarged. It is always advisable to get your kidneys screened once you cross 40 or fall under any of the risk factors. Some of the possible symptoms are-
Blood in urine – Blood in urine can indicate various diseases; do not ever ignore it.
Sudden loss of appetite can also be a symptom of kidney cancer.
A lump in your abdomen or shooting pain. These could be fatal, if you experience either of these, go to the doctor immediately.
Fatigue and weight loss- it is never normal to feel fatigued always and if you are losing weight without a proper reason, it could indicate a lot of possible diseases, including kidney cancer.
Other possible symptoms are swollen legs and ankles, coughing up blood or experiencing pain in your bones. Regular testing is important because you cannot self-diagnose kidney cancer.
Therefore, get annual or regular checkups to ward off any possible diseases.
3 Treatment and recovery
There are standard treatments to treat kidney cancer. The first leg of this treatment is a surgery and depending on the intensity of the situation, your oncologist may recommend another treatment to make sure the cancer is removed completely.
Radical nephrectomy – this surgery removes the kidney, adrenal gland, and surrounding tissue. This treatment is a very common method to remove the cancer. It can be done easily with a laparoscope too. This surgery may also remove lymph nodes.
Simple nephrectomy – it removes just the affected kidney.
Partial nephrectomy – it removes just the cancer in the kidney along with some tissue around it. This treatment is opted for smaller tumors. But this treatment might harm the other healthy kidney.
Once the surgery is complete, the oncologist may recommend other treatments like Cryotherapy, that uses extreme cold to kill the tumor, or Radiofrequency ablation, where high-energy radio waves are used to “cook” the tumor. Another interesting treatment is Arterial embolization, which involves inserting material into an artery that leads to the kidney so that the artery blocks the blood flow to the tumor.
You can prevent the tumor from growing by getting it diagnosed early. But you can try to avoid the disease altogether by maintaining a healthy lifestyle. Stay away from excess alcohol and check for risk factors to keep yourself safe.