Kidney Cancer Overview
Kidneys are the heart of the human renal system, a vital organ responsible for the job of filtering waste from our blood. When there is anomalous growth of cancer cells, resulting in the formation of a tumour in kidneys, it is said to be a kidney or renal cancer. Kidney cancer is often caught in the early stages, making it a swift and facile treatment. However, similar to other cancers, it advances to other parts of the body if overlooked, making treatment problematic.
Even with advancements in medical science, it is still unclear what exactly causes renal cancer. However, the doctors around the world suspect some factors, most common of which is DNA/genetic mutation. This causes cancer cells to increase and metastasize to the rest of the body. Some other factors include:
- Smoking and drug abuse
- Gender (it is twice as common in men than in women)
- High blood pressure
- Getting exposed to toxic chemicals
- History of previous kidney diseases
- Family history
What are kidney cancer symptoms?
Kidney cancer symptoms are not common in the early stages; most symptoms only start to appear when the tumour has become more prominent in later stages:
- Blood while urination
- Lump in abdomen
- Pain, fever, swelling, and fatigue
- Loss of appetite
- Weight loss
- Blood deficiency
In advanced stages, one gets:
- Pain in the bones
- Blood while coughing
- And breathlessness
There are no regular tests that can diagnose kidney cancer without symptoms.
Stages of Kidney Cancer
Kidney cancer has different stages, which are divided according to the spread of the disease — whether cancer is localized, regional, or distant:
- Stage 1: Being the earliest stage, cancer is localized in the kidney, and the tumour is less than 7 centimetres in size.
- Stage 2: Another localized stage, but the tumour has grown larger than 7 centimetres.
- Stage 3: This is a regional stage, i.e., cancer has begun to spread to nearby fatty tissues, lymph nodes, and blood vessels but not beyond Gerota’s fascia.
- Stage 4: Final and a distant stage, where cancer has spread beyond Gerota’s fascia, might have also affected organs like the pancreas, bowel, or even lungs.
Outlook and Prognosis
Kidney cancer is a tumour that grows and spreads from the kidneys of a person. This has several types depending on the origin of the tumour:
- Renal cell carcinoma (RCC): 85%-90% of kidney cancer cases in adults is RCC; this starts as a single tumorous mass, sometimes two at the nephrons tubes. It can occur in one or both kidneys
- Transitional cell carcinoma (TCC): This develops at the tubes linking the kidneys to the bladder; this is 10% to 15% of the cases of kidney cancer in adults.
- Wilms tumour: Common in children, which occurs due to the inactivation of a tumour suppressor gene.
There is no way to tell what will cause kidney cancer. However, there are ways one can reduce its risk:
- Avoid smoking
- Maintaining body weight
- Keeping blood pressure under control
The most preferred treatment is surgery, which needs longer recovery time, and the patient needs to be careful after the process. A lot of dietary restrictions are to be followed, like avoid salt, high phosphorus, and overhydration. Moreover, eating whole grain, starch, proteins, fruits, and vegetables is advised.
Treatment Options available
The treatment for kidney cancer have several options; these depend on which stage cancer is in, spread, the health of the patient, personal preferences, and looking at previous cancer history. The most preferred being surgery, treatment options include:
- Surgical procedures: In operation, one’s entire kidney or just a part of it is removed. Sometimes the nearby tissues and lymph nodes are removed as well:
○ Radical Nephrectomy: It is laparoscopy, in which the entire infected kidney is removed with the healthy tissues and lymph node.
○ Conservative Nephrectomy: In this surgery, only the infected bits of the kidney is removed with selected healthy tissues and lymph nodes.
- Non-surgical treatments: There are several non-surgical treatments, as well:
○ Cryoablation: Here, liquid nitrogen is used to freeze out the cancer-causing cells.
○ Radiofrequency Ablation: This process uses a probe placed with the help of ultrasound images; the probe burns the tumour cells.
○ Radiation Therapy: Using powerful X-ray beams to kill all the cancer cells, this process targets the distant parts to which cancer has spread.
There are many other ways; each of them has its pros and cons. Some treatments have nasty side effects a well. So, one must choose their treatment carefully with the doctor’s advice.
Kidney cancer is known to be comfortable and quick to treat if caught in the early stages. However, it will be challenging to operate in the advanced stages, just like other cancers. There is no clear cause to this, and kidney cancer symptoms don’t show up until the later stages. Still, with proper care and precautions, one can fight kidney cancer successfully.