Kidney Cancer, also known as Renal Cancer, is among the 10 most common cancers in both men and women and affects the normal functioning of kidneys – the two bean-shaped organs located below the ribcage, behind the abdominal organs that help in the – purification of blood by filtration of waste from the bloodstream. Every year, more than 41,000 men and 24,000 women are diagnosed with kidney and renal pelvis cancers, out of which about 9,000 men and 5,000 women die of the disease.
What is Kidney Cancer?
It is a disease where the kidney cells become malignant or cancerous and grow out of control, leading to the formation of a tumor. Almost all types of kidney cancers start in the lining of the tubules or tiny tubes in the kidney. It is the part of the kidney that filters blood. This type of kidney cancer is known as Renal Cell Carcinoma and is the most common type of kidney cancer.
Renal pelvis carcinoma is another kind of kidney cancer that starts in the part of the kidney where the urine collection takes place. The most common type of kidney cancer in children under the age of 5 is Wilms’ tumor.
Most kidney cancers are detected before they metastasize or spread to distant organs. It is easier to successfully treat cancers that are caught early. However, the tumors can grow quite large before they are detected. In this article, we’ll help you understand the stressors that cause Kidney Cancer and what we can do to prevent them.
What Causes Kidney Cancer?
Unfortunately, the cause of kidney cancer is not known yet. While doctors do not know what causes kidney cancer, certain factors appear to increase the risk of developing kidney cancer. These risk factors include:
- Family history
- Being male
- Kidney disease
- Exposure to toxins at the workplace
- Usage of certain pain medications for a long time
- Predisposition to certain genetic conditions such as von Hippel-Lindau disease and hereditary papillary renal cell carcinoma
While having these risk factors does not mean you will have kidney cancer, they do increase your chances of developing the disease.
What are the Symptoms of Kidney Cancer?
During the initial stages, kidney cancers do not exhibit any symptoms. However, as the disease progresses, some symptoms might be felt. These may include:
- Continuous back pain, especially below the ribs
- Blood in the urine
- Abdominal pain
- Abdominal swelling
- A lump in the abdomen
- Flank pain
- Unexplained weight loss
- Recurring fevers
How is Kidney Cancer Diagnosed?
Kidney cancer diagnosis requires a thorough review of the complete medical history of the patient along with complete physical examination. During the examination, the doctor will look for a lump in the abdomen or any abdominals swelling. In men, the doctor may also look for a varicocele, or an enlarged, twisted vein, in the scrotum.
Your doctor may also prescribe certain tests to detect kidney cancer. These tests may include:
- Complete Blood Count: Kidneys produce erythropoietin, a hormone that stimulates the production of red blood cells. This test can reveal if the red blood cell count is high, it indicates polycythemia, and if the count is low, it indicates anemia.
- Blood Chemistry Tests: These tests can help your doctor understand how well your kidneys are functioning. Kidney cancer can affect the levels of some kinds of chemicals in the blood, like liver enzymes and calcium.
- Urinalysis: This test allows the doctor to ascertain if there is blood present in the urine. It may also disclose other signs of an infection.
- Ultrasound of The Abdomen and Kidneys: An ultrasound of the abdomen can measure the size and shape of the kidneys. In case a tumor is present, an abdominal ultrasound may reveal its size and consistency.
- Renal Angiography: In Renal angiography, the doctor threads a catheter up a large artery in the leg or groin of the patient, to the renal artery. The doctor then injects a special dye into the artery. After injection of the dye, they take a series of X-rays. This test helps the doctor to see the blood supply to the kidneys in detail. In case a tumor is present, the blood supply to the tumor can be visible.
- Intravenous Pyelogram: This test helps a doctor to find a tumor or obstruction. A healthcare provider will inject a special dye into the veins of the patient and then take a series of X-rays. The dye allows the kidneys to be more clearly visible in the X-rays.
- CT Scan of the Abdomen: This is a non-invasive test that uses X-rays to create cross-sectional images of the body. It allows visibility of the bones, muscles, fat, organs, and blood vessels. This test can be used to find out if cancer has spread beyond the kidney.
Other tests that can be used to find out if kidney cancer has spread may include:
- An MRI scan of the abdomen
- A chest X-ray
- A bone scan
- A PET scan
- A chest or abdominal CT scan
At EPIC Health, we offer regular screening for kidney cancer detection and prevention. Our urology experts perform several tests and procedures to detect cancer cells or any other abnormalities or conditions that may develop into cancer. Our healthcare professionals can help you understand the disease as well as empower you to manage your condition in the best way through personalized diet and medicinal support. Our expert counseling sessions led by our physicians, dieticians, and healthcare professionals can help you adopt healthy eating habits, build optimum fitness levels, and maintain a good lifestyle to minimize your risk of developing kidney cancer.