Kidney cancer cases appear to be increasing, which is likely due to the higher use of imaging tests and early detection. When found in its early stages, kidney cancer is confined to the kidneys and is easier to treat.
The early stages of kidney cancer rarely present with symptoms. Later stages may cause symptoms such as:
- Intermittent fever
- Blood in the urine (hematuria)
- Pain in back or side
- Loss of appetite
- Unexplained weight loss
There are a few different types of kidney cancer. The most common type of kidney cancer is renal cell carcinoma; it accounts for about 90% of cancerous kidney tumors. Young children are more likely to develop a form of kidney cancer called Wilms’ tumor.
- Renal Cell Carcinoma
- Wilms tumor
- Urothelial carcinoma
- Kidney sarcoma
- Kidney lymphoma
Causes & Risk Factors
There are no known causes of kidney cancer. It is known that mutations occur on the cellular level that affects the cell growth cycle, as in all cancers, but the exact cause of this mutation has yet to be discovered.
There are several risk factors that have been observed to increase ones’ risk for developing kidney cancer.
- Increasing age
- High blood pressure
- Having received treatment for kidney failure
- Exposure to certain chemicals
- Certain inherited conditions (von Hippel-Lindau disease, Birt-Hogg-Dube syndrome, tuberous sclerosis complex, hereditary papillary renal cell carcinoma)
- Family history of kidney cancer
If you experience certain symptoms, your doctor will run several tests to rule out kidney cancer.
- Blood and urine tests
- Imaging tests (ultrasound, MRI, CT)
- Kidney biopsy
Based on the extent of cancer, your doctor will assign it to a stage (0 to 4). Stage 1 is when the tumor is confined to the kidney and is easily treatable. Stage 4 means cancer has spread to the lymph nodes or organs in distant areas of the body.
The treatment plan will depend on the type of cancer, its stage, and the patient’s health. Treatment options may include:
- Removing the kidney (nephrectomy)
- Removing the tumor from the kidney (partial nephrectomy)
- Freezing the cancer cells (cryoablation)
- Heating the cancer cells (radiofrequency ablation)
Treatments for advanced or recurrent kidney cancer:
- Biological therapy – drugs that use your immune system to fight cancer
- Targeted drug therapy
- Radiation therapy
- Clinical trials