Kidney Cancer is a cancer that starts in the kidneys (the pair of bean-shaped organs, each about the size of a fist, that are attached to the upper back wall of the abdomen).
The kidneys’ main job is to filter the blood coming in from the renal arteries to remove excess water, salt, and waste products. These substances become urine. Urine leaves the kidneys through long slender tubes called ureters, which connect to the bladder.
Types of Kidney Cancer
About 9 out of 10 Kidney Cancers are from the most common type:
- Renal Cell Carcinoma (RCC), also known as Renal Cell Cancer or Renal Cell Adenocarcinoma: type that usually grows as a single tumor within a kidney (although sometimes there are 2 or more tumors in one kidney or even tumors in both kidneys at the same time).
Other types of Kidney Cancers include:
- Transitional Cell Carcinomas: type that don’t start in the kidney itself, but in the lining of the renal pelvis (where the urine goes before it enters the ureter). This lining is made up of cells called transitional cells that look like the cells that line the ureters and bladder.
- Wilms Tumors (Nephroblastoma): type that almost always occur in children.
- Renal Sarcomas: a rare type of kidney cancer that begin in the blood vessels or connective tissue of the kidney. They make up less than 1% of all kidney cancers.
By other way, there are benign (non-cancerous) kidney tumors (that not metastasize, that is, don’t spread to others parts of the body), such as:
- Renal adenoma
A number of factors may increase your risk of Kidney Cancer. Some risk factors can be managed, for instance, by quitting smoking, but other factors can’t be controlled, such as your family history.
Lifestyle-related and job-related risk factors for Kidney Cancer include:
- Workplace exposures
In the same way, there are genetic and hereditary risk factors for Kidney Cancer, such as:
- von Hippel-Lindau disease
- Hereditary papillary renal cell carcinoma
- Hereditary leiomyoma-renal cell carcinoma
- Birt-Hogg-Dube (BHD) syndrome
- Familial renal cancer
- Hereditary renal oncocytoma
Signs and Symptoms
Early Kidney Cancers do not usually cause any signs or symptoms, but larger ones might. Some possible signs and symptoms of Kidney Cancer include:
- Blood in the urine (hematuria)
- Low back pain on one side (not caused by injury)
- A mass (lump) on the side or lower back
- Fatigue (tiredness)
- Loss of appetite
- Weight loss not caused by dieting
- Fever that is not caused by an infection and that doesn’t go away
- Anemia (low red blood cell counts)
These signs and symptoms can be caused by Kidney Cancer (or another type of cancer), but more often they are caused by other, benign, diseases. For example, blood in the urine is most often caused by a bladder or urinary tract infection or a kidney stone. Still, if you have any of these symptoms, see a doctor so that the cause can be found and treated, if needed.
For patients with localized kidney cancer that had not spread to the lymph nodes or distant organs (early stages), 5-year survival rates were 97% for the low-risk group, 81% for intermediate-risk group, and 62% for the high-risk group.
For patients with kidney cancer that had spread to the lymph nodes or distant organs when it was first found (advanced stages), 5-year survival rates were 41% for the low-risk group, 18% for intermediate-risk group, and 8% for the high-risk group.
Kidney Cancer Diagnosis
PLEASE NOTE: EARLY DIAGNOSIS IN CANCER IS VERY IMPORTANT BECAUSE CANCER THAT’S DIAGNOSED AT AN EARLY STAGE ―BEFORE IT’S HAD THE CHANCE TO GET TOO BIG OR SPREAD―, IS MORE LIKELY TO BE TREATED SUCCESSFULLY. IF THE CANCER HAS SPREAD, TREATMENT BECOMES MORE DIFFICULT, AND GENERALLY A PERSON’S CHANCES OF SURVIVING ARE MUCH LOWER.
State of the Art
Many Kidney Cancers are found fairly early, while they are still confined to the kidney, but others are found at a more advanced stage. There are a few reasons for this:
- These cancers can sometimes grow quite large without causing any pain or other problems.
- Because the kidneys are deep inside the body, small kidney tumors cannot be seen or felt during a physical exam.
- Currently, there are no recommended screening tests for Kidney Cancer in people who are not at increased risk. This is because no test has been shown to lower the overall risk of dying from kidney cancer.
Some tests can find some kidney cancers early, but none of these is recommended to screen for kidney cancer in people at average risk.
A routine urine test (urinalysis), which is sometimes part of a complete medical checkup, may find small amounts of blood in the urine of some people with early kidney cancer. But many things other than kidney cancer cause blood in the urine, including urinary tract infections, bladder infections, bladder cancer, and benign (non-cancerous) kidney conditions such as kidney stones. And some people with kidney cancer do not have blood in their urine until the cancer is quite large and might have spread to other parts of the body.
Imaging tests such as Computed Tomography (CT) Scans and Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) Scans can often find small Kidney Cancers, but these tests are expensive. Ultrasound is less expensive and can also detect some early Kidney Cancers. One problem with these tests is that they can’t always tell benign tumors from small renal cell carcinomas.
Often, Kidney Cancers are found incidentally (by accident) during imaging tests for some other illness such as gallbladder disease. These cancers usually are causing no pain or other symptoms when they are found. The survival rate for these Kidney Cancers is very high because they are usually found at a very early stage.