Any type of cancer diagnosis can be a scary thing. Kidney cancer is on the rise and there are around 61,560 new diagnosed cases of kidney cancer in the United States as of 2015. It tends to affect older adults around 65 years of age and is uncommon in adults less than 45 years old.
Kidney cancer is in the “top ten” list of cancers for both women and men. This type of cancer has been growing larger since the 1990’s, but the risk of death has actually gone down. This article will help you understand more about kidney cancer, its symptoms, risk factors, and treatment methods.
Your kidneys are two organs on either side of your abdomen that filter out toxins and excessive fluids from the body. They also produce hormones that help regulate your blood pressure and trigger blood cell production.
There are a few different types of kidney cancer including:
Renal Cell Carcinoma. This type of cancer occurs most often and begins very small as a single mass inside the kidney. It can occur in one or both kidneys. It grows over time and often multiple masses are found. There are a few sub-types; clear cell RCC, Papillary RCC, Chromophobe RCC, Collecting duct RCC, and other types that are more rare.
Wilms Tumor. This is one type of renal cell carcinoma that occurs in children.
Transitional Cell Carcinoma. These are rarer and only occur in about 5 to 10 percent of kidney cancer cases. They occur in the renal pelvis at the bottom of the kidney where urine collects before it leaves the kidneys.
Renal Sarcoma. This is the most rare kidney cancer and occurs in the blood vessels and kidney tissues.
What Causes Kidney Cancer?</h2?
Researchers are unsure of the exact cause of kidney cancer. They do understand that there is a DNA mutation in the cells where the cancer starts. These cells become abnormal and grow into a mass. This mass can grow larger over time and spread to other parts of the kidney and into the body.
Kidney cancer doesn’t always have symptoms in the early stages. If you have a larger mass, you may have symptoms right away. Symptoms include:
Fever unrelated to an infection
Blood in urine
Mass in lower side of back
Lack of appetite
There may be other explanations for these symptoms and they aren’t always kidney cancer. Blood in the urine is often caused by infections or stones in the urinary tract. If you have any of the above symptoms, make an appointment with your doctor.
There are a few things that may increase your risk of getting kidney cancer. These include:
Age. Age over 45 increases the risk of kidney cancer and the risk is at its highest around age 64.
History of Smoking. Smoking increases the risk of any type of cancer. If you quit, the risk is still there but much lower.
Being Overweight. Kidney cancer is more common in people who are overweight.
High Blood Pressure. Increased blood pressure over-time can increase the risk of kidney cancer.
Genetics. And inherited genetic condition can raise the risk of kidney cancer. These include; Tuberous Sclerosis, Birt-Hogg Dube syndrome, von Hippel Lindau disease, and familial papillary renal cell carcinoma.
Kidney Failure. If you are on dialysis over a long-term period of time, you may have an increased risk for kidney cancer.
If you have symptoms of kidney cancer, see your doctor as soon as possible. They will do a physical exam and ask you some questions. You will need to let the doctor know all of your symptoms, past medical history, and any medications you are taking. Often, the doctor will find another explanation for your symptoms. If they cannot, the following tests may be ordered:
Blood Testing. Complete Blood Count, Liver tests, kidney function tests.
Urinalysis. Can check for blood in urine or infection.
CT Scan This can check for masses on your kidney and if it has spread.
MRI Scan. Can provide a picture of the soft tissues and are more detailed than CT scans and outlines blood vessels. These are used less often.
Ultrasound. Sound waves can give a picture of organs and any masses will show up in black and white. Ultrasound images can show if masses are solid or filled with fluid.
PET Scan. This test checks for the spread of cancer to other organs and the lymph nodes.
Intravenous Pyelogram. Dye is injected into the urinary tract to check for tumors.
Chest X-Ray. Checks to see if cancer has spread to the lungs.
Bone Scan. Checks to see if cancer has spread to the bones.
Biopsy. If a mass is found on a kidney, the doctor can use a fine needle to aspirate the contents and check for cancer.
For kidney cancer, the first line of treatment is almost always surgery. The doctor can either remove the tumor from inside the kidney or in more advanced stages, remove the entire affected kidney.
Partial Nephrectomy. This surgery removes the tumor and any of the kidney tissue that is surrounding the tumor. If the tumor is small, it can be performed laparoscopically without opening up the abdominal cavity. This is the most common treatment for kidney cancer. There is a risk of infection and bleeding with this procedure.
Nephrectomy. This is total removal of the affected kidney, tissue surrounding the kidney and any associated lymph nodes. This surgery is most often done through and open incision, but can also be done laparoscopically. Newer technology now allows this surgery to be done by a surgical robot with more precision and less risks.
There are two other forms of treatment available when surgery is not an option. These include:
Cryoablation. The doctor inserts a needle directly into the tumor tissue and injects cold gas into the tumor. This freezes and kills off the cancer cells.
Radiofrequency Ablation. The doctor inserts a needle directly into the tumor tissue and sends a current of electricity into the tumor to heat up and burn off cancer cells.
For advanced stages of cancer or cancer that returns, the doctor may have to perform the following aggressive treatments:
Surgery. The doctor will first try to remove as much of the cancer as possible and lymph nodes.
Immune Therapy. They can try drugs that boost the immune system to fight off the cancer cells. These drugs have side-effects including; fever, chills, nausea, and vomiting.
Targeted Therapy. These drugs block cancer cells from regenerating and spreading to other parts of the body. Side-effects include; fatigue, diarrhea, and rashes.
Radiation. Radiation can be used to kill off cancer cells. This helps to kill of cancer that has spread outside the kidney and relieve symptoms.
If you are diagnosed with kidney cancer, the following lifestyle changes can help you with recovery and protect your kidneys. These include but are not limited to:
Quit smoking right away
Eat a low-fat and low-cholesterol diet
Reduce salt, potassium, and monitor your fluid intake according to your doctors recommendations
If you are diabetic, keep your blood sugar levels in range
Make all your follow-up appointments and take all your medications as prescribed
There is no scientific proof that alternative and complementary medicine will cure or even treat cancer. However, with your doctor’s ok complementary medicine may help with symptom relief and coping.
These treatments may help with stress relief, sadness, and worry. They may even help improve your appetite and sleep. Try the following:
Relaxation and Breathing exercises
With your doctor’s okay, you can also try these complimentary therapies:
Reiki – Energy Therapy. These practitioners lay hands on certain points of your body and direct healing light and energy.
Macrobiotic Diet. This consists of a vegetarian diet that is very strict. It does not allow any animal products or processed foods.
Vitamins. Most doctors recommend a multivitamin every day to help your body get the proper nutrients to help fight cancer. They also replace vitamins that are depleted by cancer treatments.
Omega-3 Fatty Acids. Omega-3 have anti-inflammatory properties. Cancer cells are known to be stimulated by inflammation in the body. Some cancer treatments are more effective when used with Omega-3 fatty acids.
Massage Therapy. Massage therapy can help with relaxation and pain relief.
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