Kidney cancer originates in the kidneys. The most common type in adults is renal cell carcinoma. For young children, they are more likely to develop a type known as Wilms' tumor. The discovery of kidney cancers is increasing. This is probably because computerized tomography (CT) scans are being used more often, so we can gather more information from the test results. There are tiny tubes in the kidney called tubules, and this is where almost all kidney cancers first form. Fortunately, most kidney cancers are caught before they spread to other organs. If cancers are found earlier, they are easier to treat successfully. However, if it is not detected, these tumors can grow quite large.
It is highly unlikely that you will experience signs or symptoms in the early stages of kidney cancer. In the later stages, symptoms may include:
- Blood in your urine, which may appear pink, red, or cola colored
- Back pain just below the ribs that doesn't go away
- Weight loss
- Intermittent fever
Doctors are unsure about what causes renal cell carcinoma. They do know though that kidney cancer begins when the cells develop mutations in their DNA. The mutations tell the cells to grow and divide quickly.
- Older age
- High blood pressure (hypertension)
- Treatment for kidney failure
- Certain inherited syndromes
The type of treatment that your doctor recommends can depend on a variety of things such as the kind of cancer you have, your general health, and whether or not the cancer has spread.
Surgery is the most traditional treatment plan for the majority of kidney cancers. The two procedures used are:
Removing the affected kidney (nephrectomy): In this procedure, the kidney is removed along with a border of healthy tissue and the adjacent lymph nodes. It can either be done as an open operation or laparoscopically. The open operation means that the surgeon makes one large incision so they can access your kidney. If the surgery is done laparoscopically, several small incisions are made so that a tiny video camera and surgical tools can be inserted. The surgeon then watches on a video monitor to complete the operation.
Removing the tumor from the kidney (nephron-sparing surgery): This procedure involves the surgeon only removing the tumor and a small amount of healthy tissue surrounding it instead of removing the entire kidney. It can be done as an open procedure or laparoscopically. This treatment is a possible method if you only have one kidney.
If surgery isn’t an option, other treatment options include:
Treatment to freeze cancer cells (cryoablation): This treatment method involves a special needle being inserted through your skin and into the kidney tumor. The needle has gas in it that is used to cool down the cancer cells or even freeze them. This is a reasonable option for someone who can’t undergo surgery or who have kidney tumors that are small.
Treatment to heat cancer cells (radiofrequency ablation): Radiofrequency is similar to cryoablation in the sense that a special needle is inserted into your kidney. The difference is that an electrical current is sent through the needle which causes the cancer cells to heat up or burn.
- Quit smoking
- Maintain a healthy weight
- Control high blood pressure