The kidneys can be found in the abdomen on the two sides of the spine. They are shaped like beans and are the size of a fist. The critical work of the kidneys is to clean the impurities in the blood and dispose of the waste products through urine. Kidney cancer is diagnosed when the cells in the kidneys grow beyond normal and become malignant or cancerous. Cancerous cells grow in the kidney’s lining and slowly spread into the entire organ. Similar to other types of cancer, if left untreated, the cancerous cells could spread into other parts of the body.
Types of Kidney Cancer
There are different types of kidney cancer.
Develops in the renal tubes that clean the impurities from the blood, is the most common type of cancer that affects adults
It affects the part of the kidneys that leads to the bladder
It is cancer that occurs in children
It affects the soft tissue that surrounds the kidneys
It is caused by enlarged lymph nodes in the kidneys
Causes of Kidney Cancer
Kidney cancer is more often seen in men older than 40 years. And, although there is no straightforward reason, there are many risk factors that may increase the chances of the disease like:
- High Blood Pressure
- Long-term exposure to certain chemicals
- Unhealthy lifestyle
Symptoms of Kidney Cancer
Like other types of cancer, unless the disease reaches a more advanced stage, most symptoms of kidney cancer are not noticeable. However, regular screening ensures that cancerous cells can be detected as early as possible to consider viable treatment plans.
The more common symptoms of kidney cancer are:
- Blood in urine
- Pain on the sides between ribs and hips
- Lower back pain without an identifiable cause
- Weight loss is caused due to unexpected loss of appetite
Diagnosis of Kidney Cancer
On suspicion of kidney cancer, patients would usually be referred to uro-oncologists who specialize in treating different kinds of urology cancers.
The urologist may recommend multiple tests to give an accurate diagnosis. These tests include:
- Blood tests to check if there is an infection in the blood
- Urine analysis, to check for blood or infection in the urine
- Physical examination and studying past medical history
- A complete metabolic panel to see check health of organs
- An ultrasound to check the images of the kidneys for abnormal growth
- MRI and CT scan to identify the stage of kidney cancer
- Biopsies to determine the type of kidney cancer
- X-rays of the chest and any other body parts to ensure that cancer has not spread to other organs
Treatment for Kidney Cancer
Urologists, radiologists, pathologists, nephrologists, and oncologists form part of the medical treatment team for kidney cancer. The specialists confer with their patients and work to provide treatment options with the best chance for success.
The main goal of treatment is to protect kidney functions by restricting the growth of the tumor and preventing the spread to other organs. Consequently, there are several treatment options for kidney cancer.
With active surveillance, imaging and blood tests are taken in periodic intervals to check tumor size and the level of infection. This treatment can be chosen only when the tumor is not bigger than 3 cm.
If the tumor is small, an oncologist may recommend non-surgical options to destroy the cancer cells. Ablation is where small tumors, less than 3 cm, are treated with extreme heat or cold to destroy the growth effectively. In cryoablation, cold gas is inserted into the kidney to freeze the cancer cells. In contrast, radiofrequency ablation uses heat through electrical currents to destroy the cancer cells.
Nephrectomy is a laparoscopic surgery that removes tumors entirely from the infected organs. The process involves removing the entire kidney and any surrounding infected nodes. The surgery may be done through small incisions on the surface of the body and operation through these holes with the help of a camera.
If the tumor is small, then rather than removing the entire kidney, doctors may only remove the tumor and the tumour part of the kidney without affecting the kidney’s overall functions.usually partial nephrectomy is done by robotic or laproscopic technique.
Even if initial treatment has been termed successful, doctors will schedule regular imaging and blood tests to ensure that the tumor has not regrown. Furthermore, in advanced cases of cancer, where it has spread to other healthy organs, more treatments would be considered.
This therapy uses different drugs to isolate cancer cells. This allows the body’s immune system to fight and destroy the cancer cells.
Targeted Drug Treatment
This treatment studies and isolates abnormalities in the cancer cells. The abnormal portion is then targeted by drugs to destroy the cells.
High-powered energy through X-rays is used to destroy cancer cells in the kidneys. Radiation therapy is also used to control cancer that has spread to other healthy organs.
There are always new research studies conducted to identify more effective medications and treatments for kidney and other types of cancer. If a patient meets the criteria set by any of the studies, he may be approached for participating in the clinical trials.
The best option to safeguard oneself against kidney cancer is regular health screenings, especially if there is a genetic disposition for cancer in the family.
Following a lifestyle of nutritious food, healthy habits, and exercise may reduce the relapse of cancer.
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