Kidney Cancer: The Disease That Affects Your Bean-Shaped Organ
Kidney cancer is a kind of cancer that affects the fist-sized, bean-shaped organs of the body. Kidneys are located on either side of the spine and in the abdominal region. The most common type, renal cell carcinoma, account for about 90 percent of the cancerous tumours in adults. Even children may be at the risk of developing a different kind of kidney cancer, named as Wilms’ tumour.
There is rarely any significant symptoms in the early stages of kidney cancer. But the later stages show the signs which include:
- Pink, or red coloured blood in the urine
- Constant back-pain and/or in the side
- Loss of appetite
- Weight loss
- Intermittent Fever
The clear cause of kidney cancer, or renal cancer which is the most common form, is still unknown. Although there are risk factors but doctors can point out that the cells in the kidney after acquiring certain mutations in their DNA turn cancerous. Some even can spread to different parts of the body after breaking off, called as metastasizing.
The diagnostic tests used are:
- Blood and urine tests
- Imaging tests
- Removing a sample of kidney tissue (biopsy)
Kidney cancer staging
After the doctor has identified a lesion that may be kidney cancer, determination of the stage or extent of that cancer is the next crucial step. The stages include:
- First Stage or Stage I – Tumour size, in diameter, can be up to 7 centimetres and confined to the kidney.
- Second Stage or Stage II – Tumour size is larger still confined to the kidney.
- Third Stage or Stage III – Tumour extends to the surrounding tissue and even to the nearby lymph nodes.
- Fourth Stage or Stage IV – Cancer, in this stage, spreads outside of the kidney, to the lymph nodes and/or to other parts of the body, such as lungs, the bones, or liver.
Risk factors involving kidney cancer
The risk factors include:
- Older age
- High blood pressure (hypertension)
- Treatment for kidney failure
- Certain inherited syndromes
- Family history of kidney cancer
- Exposure to certain substances
Certain lifestyle changes can act as a prevention to kidney cancer, these include:
- Quit smoking
- Maintain a healthy weight
- Control high blood pressure
Treatment options can be discussed with the specialist, and the best approach is adopted after considering certain factors such as, cancer stage, general health, and the kind of kidney cancer.
The main objective for doctors is to remove the tumour and restore the normal functioning of the kidney, and this is primarily achieved by performing a surgery. The procedures that can be used are:
- Removing the affected kidney (nephrectomy)
- Removing the tumor from the kidney (partial nephrectomy)
There are alternative treatment options that are available which can destroy, without surgery, the small tumours. These include:
- Treatment to freeze cancer cells (cryoablation) Treatment to heat cancer cells (radiofrequency ablation)
- Treatments for advanced and recurrent kidney cancer
In cases where the cancer has spread or is recurring, the treatments may include:
- Surgical removal of the kidney tumour, as much as possible
- Drugs which will use the immune system in fighting cancer (biological therapy)
- Targeted therapy
- Radiation therapy
Coping and support
Every person will have a different approach to cope with the cancer, mentally and physically. Few ways that can help in the daily coping include:
- Learn enough about kidney cancer from doctors
- Take time for yourself
- Gather a support network
- Get mental health counselling if needed
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