With the development of medicine and new ways of treating cancer, this disease remains one of the most frightening and deadliest in the world. Unfortunately, millions of people are dying each year from different types of cancer. This article is about a specific one that can be treated if the tumor is discovered in early stages. People with kidney cancer have relatively good survival chances if the treatment begins promptly.
What is kidney cancer?
Kidneys are located in the lower abdomen and look like two beans nearly the size of a fist. Their job is to clean your blood and make urine, getting rid of soluble wastes.
Kidney cancer, or renal cancer, occurs when kidney cells become cancerous (malignant) and begin to grow into a tumor. This process usually starts in the lining of tiny tubes in the kidney. Typically, renal cancer can be spotted way before it begins to spread to other parts of the body (metastasize).
There are many different types of cells in your kidneys. The type of kidney cancer depends on the specific cell the cancer starts in. The main types of renal cell cancer are:
- clear cell - around 75% of all renal cell cancers;
- papillary - around 10% of all renal cell cancers;
- chromophobe - around 5% of all renal cell cancers.
What are the symptoms?
Unfortunately, people rarely have any early symptoms of the disease. As the tumor develops, the following symptoms may start to manifest:
- Blood in your urine is the most common symptom. The bleeding may come and go.
- An abdominal lump (swelling that emerges from the area of your kidneys).
- Poor appetite, an overall unhealthy feeling.
- Heavy sweating and fever that isn’t caused by an infection.
- Extreme fatigue or tiredness.
- Anemia (lack of enough red blood cells in your blood).
- Swelling in your legs, or ankles in particular.
- Back pain, usually in the area of one of your kidneys.
- Sudden weight loss that occurs for no obvious or specific reason.
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Unlike many other cancers, an oncologist can be sure about the diagnosis even without making a biopsy. Usually, patients have to undergo a thorough physical exam, which includes urine and blood tests, intravenous pyelogram (an X-ray of your kidneys with a contrast agent to highlight the tumor), a CT scan or/and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). Sometimes, the doctor might order renal arteriogram, a test to evaluate the blood supply to the tumor.
How to prevent kidney cancer?
Unfortunately, doctors don’t know what exactly causes this type of cancer, so it is not clear how a person can prevent the occurrence of the disease.
However, certain factors have been linked to an increased risk of developing kidney cancer:
- Smoking. According to studies, the risk of kidney cancer is doubled if a person smokes.
- Being male. Somehow, men are twice as prone to the disease as women.
- Obesity. Excessive weight can cause changes in hormonal balance that can increase the risk.
- Genes. Your risk of getting kidney cancer is significantly increased if any of your family members had one.
- Severe kidney disease can also lead to the development of the tumor.
- Pain medications. It has been determined that the long-time usage of over-the-counter drugs can increase your risk of getting kidney cancer.
- Exposure to certain chemicals, such as cadmium, asbestos, benzene, etc.
Doctors recommend that people have regular tests to look for kidney cancer, for example, ultrasound, which is less expensive than CT or MRI scans. It is also recommended to lead an overall healthy lifestyle: quit smoking and drinking alcohol, have a healthy diet, and exercise regularly.
This article is solely for informational purposes. Do not self-diagnose or self-medicate, and in all cases consult a certified healthcare professional before using any information presented in the article. The editorial board does not guarantee any results and does not bear any responsibility for any harm that may result from using the information provided in the article.