E-Kidney | june 2013

7 Important Facts About Kidney Cancer

Doctor w/ clipboard

Each year in the United States, about 51,000 adults will be diagnosed with kidney cancer. The exact cause of kidney cancer is unclear, but having advanced chronic kidney disease may place you at increased risk for developing kidney cancer. Other risk factors include: smoking, obesity, high blood pressure, family history of kidney cancer, chronic kidney disease, exposure to radiation therapy or carcinogenic chemicals, and long-term use of phenacetin (a painkiller).

In order to protect your kidneys, learn 7 kidney cancer facts from the National Kidney Foundation:

  1. The Types: There are two main types of kidney cancer: renal cell cancer and transitional cell cancer. The most common type of adult kidney cancer is renal cell cancer which begins in the lining of the renal tubules -- tiny tubes in the kidney that clean the blood and make urine. Renal cell cancer may metastasize, which means it may spread to other parts of the body, most often the bones or lungs.
  2. The Likelihood: Kidney cancer is about twice as common in men than women. Black people have a slightly higher rate of renal cell cancer than white people. Brothers and sisters of people with kidney cancer have a much higher chance of getting the disease.
  3. The Signs and Symptoms: In the early stages, renal cell cancer usually causes no clear signs or symptoms. As the tumor grows, symptoms may include: Blood in the urine or a lump/mass in the area of the back near the kidneys. Less often, patients may experience constant pain in the side near a kidney, high blood pressure or anemia. These symptoms can also be caused by less serious problems such as a benign (non-cancerous) cyst or an infection. If you have any of these symptoms, check with your physician or healthcare clinician. He or she will do some tests to find out what is causing your problem.
  4. The Treatment: Kidney cancer is a serious disease, but in most cases, the earlier it is found, the better the outcome. Kidney cancer can often be cured if found and treated before it has spread. About 30% of those who are diagnosed with renal cell cancer develop advanced (metastatic) disease. Like most types of cancer, kidney cancer treatment depends on the stage of the disease, the patient’s general health, age and other factors. Kidney cancer is usually treated with a combination or nephrectomy, radiation therapy, immunotherapy, chemotherapy and hormone therapy.
  5. The Breakdown: A nephrectomy is the surgical removal of all or part of the kidney. This is the most common treatment for kidney cancer. Removing only the cancerous tumor is considered a “partial nephrectomy” while a “radical nephrectomy” removes the entire kidney (cancerous and non-cancerous tissue alike).
  6. The Preferred Method: When used to treat small tumors, radical nephrectomy has been shown to increase the risk of developing chronic kidney disease and cardiovascular complications. Even though a partial nephrectomy is the preferred surgical method, according to a new research study, more than 25% of kidney cancer patients surveyed were not told about the benefits of this type of operation. For more information about this new study, click here.
  7. The Follow Up: Having kidney cancer places you at increased risk for developing chronic kidney disease, even if you don’t already have kidney disease. It’s important to work with your healthcare team – specialists and primary care practitioners alike – to monitor your kidney function over time in order to detect chronic kidney disease early.