Kidney cancer (renal cancer)
- What is kidney (renal) cancer?
- What are the different types of kidney cancer?
- What causes kidney cancer?
- What are the symptoms?
- What investigations will I need?
- How is kidney cancer treated?
- What is the outlook for kidney cancer?
What is kidney cancer?
This is the uncontrolled growth of abnormal kidney cells, which invade and destroy the normal kidney tissue and spread to other vessels, lymph nodes, fat, and ultimately various organs in the body. The kidney's role in the body is to cleanse the blood and dispose of waste material in the form of urine. Kidney cancer is rare. It is twice as common in men, as it is in women.
What are the different types of kidney cancer?
There are four main types of kidney cancer:
- Renal cell carcinoma, which is the most common, accounting for 85% of kidney cancers. It usually originates in one kidney.
- Transitional cell carcinoma, which is not a common form of kidney cancer, usually beginning in the pelvis of the kidney.
- Nephroblastoma, which is a very rare tumour occurring in children under the age of five.
- Renal sarcoma, which is very rare.
What causes kidney cancer?
The precise cause of kidney cancer is unknown but a number of risk factors have been
Identified. These include:
- Exposure to industrial agents such as asbestos and naphthalene.
- It can be associated with genetic defects such as Von Hippel-Lindau Disease, a very rare inherited disorder that affects the brain and kidneys.
What are the symptoms of kidney cancer?
Kidney cancer may not have any symptoms. When symptoms occur, they may include:
- Reddish or cloudy urine, due to blood in the urine. This condition is known as
haematuria. There are a number of other, less serious conditions that can cause
haematuria but you should not ignore it. You should discuss this with your doctor
who will advise you about further investigations.
- Abdominal pain.
- Unexplained fatigue,
- weight loss,
- loss of appetite
- Fever symptoms.
What investigations will I need?
I f you have symptoms suggestive of a kidney tumour or if you have a mass in the abdomen your doctor might organise the following investigations:
- Chemical and microscopic testing of the urine
- Blood tests to assess the functioning of the kidney
- Various abdominal scans, including ultrasound, CT or MRI scans, will usually be carried out to determine the size and extent of the tumour.
- A bone scan to determine if cancer has spread to the bones.
- Venography, which involves the insertion of a dye into the veins to examine
the extent of the damage to the kidneys.
- A sample of kidney tissue (biopsy) may be required for examination under the microscope.
How is kidney cancer treated?
Treatment choices are determined by a number of factors. The patient's age and general state of health are fundamental to this decision. Other factors that influence the choice of treatment include the tumour size, location and whether there is any evidence of tumour spread beyond the kidney.
The mainstay of treatment is surgical removal of the kidney (nephrectomy). This procedure
may entail extracting the entire kidney along with the adjoining fat and lymph nodes, to ensure that all the cancerous cells are removed. Radiation therapy and chemotherapy may sometimes be used.
Long-term follow up is required in order to exclude the possibility of a recurrence.
What is the outlook for kidney cancer?
The earlier kidney cancer is detected and treated, the more successful treatment is likely
to be. Surgery alone can be curative if the condition is detected early enough. However, if kidney cancer is detected late and if there is evidence of spread beyond the kidney the outlook is poor.
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