Kidney cancer is also referred to as renal cancer and it is a medical condition where malignant cells form cancerous tumors in the renal area due to uncontrollable growth. The primary growth of kidney cancer is reported in the lining of the tiny tubules of the kidney. The condition is medically termed as renal cell carcinoma. Kidney cancer is treatable in most of the cases when it is identified before metastasize, which is the spreading of cancer to distant organs.
Signs & Symptoms
The common symptoms of renal/ kidney cancer include:
- Blood in the urine (the urine may appear slightly rusty to deep red).
- Pain in the side of the abdomen, which is not soothing.
- A lump growth on the side or the abdomen.
- Weight loss.
- Fatigue and overall declining health.
In most of the cases, the symptoms do not confirm cancer. There are other reasons, including infection or a cyst that might cause the same symptoms. It is important for an individual to consult the doctor as soon as any of these symptoms are visible to identify whether it is cancer and avail the treatment in case of a positive diagnosis.
When a patient has the symptoms, the doctor recommends a few procedures to diagnose the condition to the core. This includes:
- Physical Examination: A health check is performed to note the general symptoms of the body and to record any fever and high blood pressure. The doctor also performs a physical exam to check the abdomen for any tumors.
- Urine Tests: To identify if the individual has any other disease.
- Blood Tests: The blood tests offer an insight into the functioning of the kidneys. The blood sample is checked in a lab for the level of several substances, such as creatinine. In case of a high level of creatinine, the kidneys are considered dysfunctional.
- Ultrasound Test: The body is exposed to ultrasound waves which bounce off the kidneys. A computer is installed to monitor the echoes and create a picture called a sonogram. The presence of a solid tumor or cyst is clearly visible on a sonogram.
- CT Scan (CAT Scan): X-rays like machines are used to create a picture of the kidney. As per the case, the doctor might inject a dye to the patient for clear pictures of the x-ray. A CT scan can show a kidney tumor.
- Biopsy: In case of a biopsy, some tissues are extracted from the patient’s kidney to look for any cancerous cells. A biopsy is the removal of tissue to look for cancer cells. The tissues are extracted with the help of a needle. To identify the right location, ultrasound or x-rays are used as a guide.
- Surgery: After all the diagnostic procedures are performed, the surgeon has a clear picture of the internal situation of the kidneys to proceed further. The surgeon might recommend removing some tissue or maybe the entire kidney.
Kidney cancer develops in stages and to recommend a treatment, the doctor first identifies the current stage of the disease. At every stage the size and spread of the tumor are different. It is important to identify whether or not cancer has spread and if it has, what are the affected areas. Doctors use a range of techniques for cancer staging including x-rays, ultrasound, CT Scans as well as MRI, a complicated procedure that used magnetic rays for creating the image of the internal body organs.
The four stages of kidney cancer are as below:
- Stage I: The first stage of the kidney cancer wherein the tumor measures up to 2¾ inches (7cm), restricted to kidney only. The size of the tumor can be compared with the measurements of a tennis ball.
- Stage II: The second stage of the kidney cancer wherein the size of the tumor grows beyond 2¾ inches but still restricted to the kidney.
- Stage III is one of the following: The tumor remains located in the kidney. However, the cancer cells grow further to affect the lymphatic system to one nearby lymph node;
The tumor invades the adrenal gland or the layers of fat and fibrous tissue that surround the kidney and stopped there. A nearby lymph node might be affected;
The cancer cells have outgrown and affected a nearby large blood vessel. Cancer cells also have infected a nearby lymph node.
- Stage IV is one of the following: Cancer cells affect more than one nearby lymph node;
The tumor develops fast, passing the fibrous tissues and surrounding the kidney;
Cancer has outgrown and reached to other body parts such as the lungs.
- Recurrent Cancer: In this case, cancer appears again after the treatment, it is termed as recurrent Cancer. The outbreak can be in the kidney or any other part of the body.
It is important to know about the possible treatments for kidney cancer to make an informed decision. However, the shock of having such a disease and the stress developed because of the various diagnostic treatments often makes you tired and anxious. It is best to discuss all the possibilities with your doctor in full detail. Ask as many questions as you can and get all the information required to make the big decision.
It is possible that your doctor might refer you to a specialist. The specialist is qualified to offer the best treatment consultation. The experts in the case of kidney cancer include urologists, medical oncologists, and radiation oncologists.
Preparing for Treatment
The treatment for kidney cancer depends on its developmental stage. The doctor would diagnose your condition, stage of cancer, and recommend the best possible treatment. You can always ask your doctor the details of the treatment as well as any other query related to recovery or re-occurrence of the condition.