Kidney cancer is a cancer that begins in the kidneys, the bean-shaped organs that help remove excess water and waste from the body through urine. They also make sure the body has enough red blood cells. Tumors that originate in the kidneys are common, with over 50,000 people in the US diagnosed with this disease each year.
Types of Kidney Cancer
There are several different types of kidney cancer, classified by the location of origin. The most common type of kidney cancer is renal cell carcinoma, which begins in the small tubes found within the kidney. Renal cell carcinoma accounts for nearly nine out of 10 cases of kidney cancer. It usually begins as a single mass within the kidney, and can usually be identified before it spreads to other areas.
Some of the other common types of kidney cancer include transitional cell carcinomas, Wilms tumors and renal sarcomas. Benign tumors are often found in the kidneys as well, and may also require surgery.
Symptoms of Kidney Cancer
Patients with kidney cancer do not often experience any symptoms until the disease has progressed to its later stages, at which point they may notice:
- Blood in the urine
- Back pain
- Weight loss
If left untreated, kidney cancer may spread to other areas of the body and symptoms may worsen.
Causes and Risk Factors
Much like other types of cancer, the specific cause of kidney cancer is unknown. However, it is believed to be a result of a specific gene mutation, which can be inherited or acquired.
Some patients may be at a higher risk for developing kidney cancer, including those who:
- Are obese
- Have a family history of kidney cancer
- Have advanced kidney disease
Patients can reduce their risk of developing kidney cancer by eliminating these factors that are not controlled by genetics. Obesity and smoking are common risk factors for many conditions, and should be managed in order to improve a patient’s health.
Treatment of Kidney Cancer
There are several different treatment options available for kidney cancer. The best treatment for each individual patient depends on the severity and location of the disease. Surgery is often the most effective treatment for kidney cancer, as it is the only treatment to completely remove the tumor. This procedure may involve removing just the tumor or removing the entire kidney.
For some patients, surgery may be too risky. Less invasive treatments are available to treat the disease for these patients, including embolization, cryoablation, biological therapy and more. Your doctor will decide which treatment is best for you after a thorough evaluation of your condition.