Kidney cancer, also known as renal cancer, is a type of malignant tumor that starts in the kidneys. People can develop tumors within either one or both of their kidneys, and it spreads to other parts of the body if not treated. Common symptoms include pain in the side of the abdomen, a lump or mass in the abdomen, fatigue, weight loss, and blood in the urine. Diagnostic tests such as CT scans, ultrasounds, and biopsies are used to diagnose kidney cancer. Treatment is usually either surgery or chemotherapy depending on the stage of the cancer, and can also include radiation, targeted therapy, and immunotherapy.
Common symptoms associated with kidney cancer can include:
- Blood in the urine (hematuria)
- Unexplained pain in the lower back or abdomen
- Persistent fatigue
- Unexplained weight loss
- Loss of appetite
- Frequent urination
- Lumps or masses on the side or lower back that can be felt
- Swelling of the ankles or legs
- Fever that isn’t caused by an infection
- Night sweats.
The exact cause of kidney cancer is still unknown; however, there are several potential risk factors associated with the condition. These include smoking and tobacco use, long-term dialysis, exposure to certain chemicals, a family history of kidney cancer, and certain underlying health conditions, such as HIV infection, obesity, and hypertension. Other risk factors for the development of kidney cancer include exposure to certain environmental pollutants and occupational hazards.
The risk factors for Kidney cancer include:
– Age. People over the age of 55 are more likely to develop kidney cancer.
– Gender. Men are twice as likely as women to get kidney cancer.
– High blood pressure and/or diabetes.
– Long-term dialysis.
– Family history of kidney cancer.
– Exposure to certain chemicals and toxins, such as asbestos.
– A personal history of other kidney diseases or tumors.
Kidney cancer is diagnosed through a physical exam, imaging tests, urine tests, and biopsy. A physical exam will help the doctor determine if there are any abnormal lumps or swellings in the abdomen. Imaging tests such as a CT scan, MRI, or ultrasound provide detailed images of the kidneys so that any suspicious areas can be further investigated. Urine tests can help detect hormones or proteins that can be markers for kidney cancer. Finally, a biopsy, which is a test where a small area of tissue is removed and examined under a microscope, can be used to confirm a diagnosis of kidney cancer.
There are two primary categories of kidney cancer: renal cell carcinoma (RCC) and urothelial cell carcinoma (UCC).
Renal cell carcinoma (RCC) is the most common type of kidney cancer and accounts for 80-90% of all kidney cancers. RCC is a malignant tumor that grows in the lining of the renal tubules (the small tubes that make up the kidneys). It can be further divided into four additional subtypes: clear cell carcinoma, chromophobe renal cell carcinoma, papillary renal cell carcinoma and collect duct carcinoma.
Clear cell carcinoma is the most common type of RCC and is characterized by cells with clear contents in the cytoplasm. Chromophobe renal cell carcinoma is the second most common type of RCC and is generally less aggressive than clear cell carcinoma. Papillary renal cell carcinoma is a rare type of RCC, but can be more aggressive than other types of RCC and may be associated with a higher risk for metastasis. Collect duct carcinoma is an extremely rare type of RCC and is usually very aggressive.
Urothelial cell carcinoma (UCC) is the second most common type of kidney cancer and accounts for 10-20% of all kidney cancer cases. UCC is a malignant tumor that grows in the lining of the renal pelvis (the funnel-like area of the kidney that connects to the other organs of the urinary system). UCC is divided into two subtypes: low grade and high grade. Low grade UCC is typically less aggressive than high-grade UCC, but can still cause life-threatening complications if it metastasizes. High grade UCC is a more aggressive type of UCC and is more likely to metastasize.
The treatment options for kidney cancer depend largely on the type of kidney cancer, size, stage of the cancer, and your overall health. Generally, treatment options for kidney cancer include surgery, targeted therapies, immunotherapy, radiation therapy, and chemotherapy.
Surgery is often the first step in treating kidney cancer. Depending on the size and stage of the cancer, surgery may involve removing a portion of the kidney, the entire kidney, and nearby lymph nodes. Surgery may also be used to control risk factors, such as high blood pressure or diabetes.
Targeted therapies are drugs that block the growth and spread of cancer cells. These drugs interfere with specific molecules involved in cancer cell growth and division. Examples include tyrosine kinase inhibitors, monoclonal antibodies, and mTOR inhibitors.
Immunotherapy is a type of treatment that uses the body’s own immune system to fight cancer. It works by activating the immune system and helping it recognize cancer cells as foreign. Examples of immunotherapy for kidney cancer include nivolumab and pembrolizumab.
Radiation therapy uses high-energy beams, such as X-rays, to kill or shrink cancer cells. Radiation therapy can be used to shrink or destroy tumors in the kidney, or to relieve symptoms such as pain.
Chemotherapy is a type of treatment that uses drugs to kill cancer cells. It is usually administered intravenously or taken orally. Common chemotherapy drugs used to treat kidney cancer include gemcitabine, paclitaxel, and doxorubicin.
- Avoid smoking and limit alcohol consumption.
- Maintain a healthy weight and be physically active.
- Eat a healthy diet rich in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains.
- Limit exposure to environmental toxins and chemicals.
- Have regular medical check-ups and screenings.
- Ensure that any medical conditions (such as high blood pressure, diabetes, or urinary tract infections) are properly controlled and managed.
- Talk with your doctor about your personal and family medical history to determine if any preventive measures may be necessary.
- Consider talking to your doctor about medications such as aspirin that may reduce your risk of developing certain forms of cancer.
Yes, there are gender-specific differences in the presentation and management of kidney cancer. Men are more likely than women to be diagnosed with kidney cancer, and the peak age for the occurrence of kidney cancer in men is earlier than in women. In general, men tend to have more aggressive forms of kidney cancer and are more likely to have advanced-stage disease at the time of diagnosis; thus, their prognosis is worse. Women, on the other hand, tend to have smaller and slower-growing tumors and are more likely to have localized disease. Women also have higher survival rates than men. With regards to treatment, there are some gender-specific differences in the management of kidney cancer. In the case of non-metastatic kidney cancer, men are more likely to receive operative therapy, while women are more likely to receive non-operative management. Similarly, in the case of metastatic kidney cancer, men are more likely to receive radiation therapy, while women are more likely to receive immunotherapy or systemic chemotherapy.
Nutrition plays an important role in the management of kidney cancer by providing the body with essential nutrients that aid in the cancer treatment process. Proper nutrition provides the body with essential proteins, vitamins, minerals, carbohydrates and other essential nutrients needed for the body to fight the cancer, maintain a balanced immune system and remain healthy during treatment. It also helps to provide the energy needed for activities of daily living. Additionally, proper nutrition plays an important role in slowing down the progression of the disease, reducing side effects associated with certain treatments and aiding in recovery. Additionally, good nutrition can also help to reduce and manage the symptoms of kidney cancer.
Physical activity has been shown to help reduce the risk of kidney cancer. While the exact mechanism of how physical activity reduces the risk of kidney cancer is not yet known, it is believed that physical activity helps to reduce inflammation in the body, which is known to make certain types of cancer more likely. Additionally, physical activity can help to maintain a healthy weight, which can reduce risk factors associated with kidney cancer, such as being overweight or obese. It is also believed that physical activity helps to reduce oxidative stress, which may help to reduce the risk of developing cancer. Furthermore, physical activity may reduce the risk of diabetes and hypertension, both of which are linked to kidney cancer.