As the name indicates, kidney cancer (or renal cancer) originates in the kidneys, the bean-shaped organs that are located just behind the abdominal organs. Renal cell carcinoma is among the most common type of kidney cancer in adults. In children, the most prevalent type of kidney cancer is Wilms’ tumor. However, there are some rarer types of kidney cancer that may also occur.
What are the different stages of kidney cancer?
- Stage I: This is the first stage of kidney cancer, in which the tumor is about 2.75 inches in diameter and is confined to either kidney.
- Stage II: The second stage of kidney cancer the tumor is a little larger compared to the stage I tumor, but still remains confined to one kidney.
- Stage III: The tumor at this stage extends beyond the organ, and may even spread to surrounding tissues or lymph nodes.
- Stage IV: At this stage, the kidney cancer begins to spread outside the kidney and even to the multiple lymph nodes or other distant body parts (i.e., lungs, liver, etc.).
What are the causes of renal cancer?
The causes of renal cancer are not always definitive. However, the most common type of kidney cancer occurs due to several contributing factors. According to the doctors, kidney cancer starts to develop when some kidney cells begin acquiring mutations within their DNA. These mutations enhance cell growth and prompt these cells to divide rapidly. The accumulation of abnormal cells begins to form a tumor, which can extend beyond the kidney. Some of these cells may even break off and begin to spread, or metastasize, to other distant parts of the body.
What are the risk factors for kidney cancer?
The common risk factors that are likely to contribute to kidney cancer development are:
- Advanced age: Elderly people are more at the risk of kidney cancer.
- Obesity: Overweight people are also at a higher risk of developing kidney cancer.
- Smoking: People who smoke increase their chances of kidney cancer compared to non-smokers.
- High blood pressure: Due to hypertension, the chances of kidney cancer increase.
- Treatment for kidney failure: A patient who has received a long-term dialysis for treating chronic kidney failure is susceptible to kidney cancer.
- Family history: Individuals with a strong family history of kidney cancer are at a higher risk of developing this type of cancer.
- Exposure to certain chemical substances (i.e., cadmium or certain herbicides) in the workplace may increase the chances of kidney cancer.
How to diagnose kidney cancer?
- Urine and Blood tests: A simple urine or blood test is the easiest way for your doctor to determine the existence of kidney cancer.
- Imaging tests: Certain imaging tests (i.e., ultrasound, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) or computerized tomography (CT) scan) may help diagnose kidney cancer.
- Biopsy: Removing a small kidney tissue for lab testing.
What is the treatment for kidney cancer?
1. Local treatments
Local treatments treat a tumor on a particular organ, without affecting other body parts. Some local kidney cancer treatments include:
- Radiation Therapy
- Ablation & other local Kidney Cancer Treatment
- Active Surveillance
2. Systemic treatment
This kidney cancer treatment is completed using different oral drugs, which depend on the type of kidney cancer. Common systemic treatments include:
- Targeted Therapies
What is kidney cancer screening?
Statistically, kidney cancer is less common in the United States compared to other types of cancer. However, to maintain health and wellness, it is important to visit your doctor with any suspicious symptoms (i.e., kidney pain or swelling) and undergo kidney cancer screening examinations and programs for prevention should you be at risk.
To lower your risk of kidney cancer:
- Exercise regularly
- Quit smoking
- Maintain a healthy BMI (Body Mass Index)
- Follow a low-fat diet