What is Kidney Cancer?
Kidney cancer is a malignant cell growth in the kidney (a tumor). The medical name is renal cell carcinoma. Tumors can also be benign.
Kidney cancer is a general term. There are different tumor types and different disease stages in the kidney. Your treatment and experience, will depend on the characteristics of the tumor and the experience of your medical team.
Renal cancers constitute approximately 2% of all cancers diagnosed worldwide. In the last 25 years, the number of kidney cancer patients has increased slightly in Europe. But the survival rate has increased in many regions. Due to advances in imaging technologies such as ultrasound and CT, and more frequent use, more kidney cancer is now diagnosed early.
Men have a higher risk of kidney cancer than women. Most people are diagnosed between 60-70 years of age.
Risk Factors for Kidney Cancer
It is often difficult to determine the causes of kidney cancer. General risk factors include smoking and obesity.
Those with first-degree relative kidney cancer and high blood pressure are also at risk. Some lifestyle changes, most importantly, the quit smoking, the maintenance of healthy weight can reduce the risk of developing kidney cancer.
Although kidney cancer is usually asymptomatic, one in 10 people may have side pain and symptoms such as urine blood. This can be a sign of disease progression. In some people the condition called paraneoplastic syndrome can be seen. These are reactions caused by any type of cancer that occurs in the body, such as high blood pressure, weight loss, fever, anemia, loss of muscle mass and loss of appetite. Syndromes associated with kidney cancer often involve liver enzymes and platelet changes. These changes do not cause symptoms and are usually detected during tests.
Bone pain or persistent cough may be a sign of cancer spreading to other parts of the body. This is known as metastatic disease.
Because there are different types of kidney tumors, your doctor will perform a number of tests for a better understanding your specific situation. These are medical past and scans. Sometimes a family story is taken. The CT or MRI determines whether the tumor is spread to the local veins, lymph nodes, or surrounding tissues. This is important for further treatments. Blood and urine tests can also be performed near physical examination.
With your scan results, your urologist can define the stage of your disease. By examining the tumor tissue taken during surgery or biopsy, the pathologist determines the subset of tumors and whether they are aggressive. The stage, subgroup and aggressiveness of the tumor constitute the classification.
The classification of the kidney tumor is used to predict the patient-specific prognosis. According to your personal prognosis, your doctor will discuss the best treatment path with you.
In some cases, you may need additional tests for renal function control. This is important if you are at risk of kidney failure due to a single kidney or diabetes, high blood pressure, chronic infection, and kidney disease.
Imaging and classification of kidney tumors is very important. The most common imaging modalities are ultrasound, CT and MRI. In some cases, biopsy is taken to determine the specific characteristics of the tumor.
After the diagnosis of localized kidney cancer, your doctor may recommend the treatment of cancer with partial nephrectomy, radical nephrectomy, active surveillance, radiofrequency ablation or cryotherapy. Each process has its own advantages and disadvantages. The choice of treatment depends on your personal situation.
If you have been diagnosed with locally advanced kidney cancer, your doctor may recommend radical nephrectomy or embolization treatment. Both procedures have their own advantages and disadvantages. The choice of treatment will be determined in relation to your individual situation.
Renal tumors can spread to other organs or lymph nodes. This is called metastatic disease. In metastatic disease, kidney tumors are called primary tumors and tumors in other organs are called metastases. Your doctor may recommend a combination of anti-angiogenic therapy, which is known as the target therapy in the treatment of metastatic disease. In rare cases immunotherapy may be used. Radiotherapy may be recommended for the treatment of metastasis.
Usually, the metastatic disease cannot be cured. Treatment of metastatic disease aims to reduce the size of the primary tumor and metastases. This will give you the chance to live longer and have fewer symptoms.