1. Role of Kidneys
You have two kidneys that lie behind your stomach along your spine. Their main job is to remove waste from your body. When they fail, waste can no longer be removed from your blood, creating problems. Excess potassium, for example, can cause an irregular heartbeat. There are several different types of kidney cancer, but the most common one among adults is renal cell carcinoma.
2. Early Signs and Symptoms
Early stages of kidney cancer do not often exhibit symptom. As the cancer advances, you may notice blood in your urine. Back pain, fatigue, weight loss, and intermittent fever are all additional symptoms of kidney cancer.
3. Associated Risk Factors
There are several different risk factors associated with kidney cancer. Family history and smoking are two of the largest risk factors. Obesity and high blood pressure have also been linked with developing the disease. If you have received treatment for kidney failure, particularly long term dialysis, you are more likely to develop kidney cancer.
4. Getting Tested
Blood and urine tests are often the first step in determining if you have kidney cancer or not. Imaging tests can be done to give your doctor a good look at any tumors or other abnormalities in your kidneys. If an official diagnosis proves difficult, your doctor may recommend a biopsy. This involves removing a tissue sample from your kidney to send to a lab for further testing.
5. Stages of Cancer
There are four stages to kidney cancer. In stages one and two, the cancer is still confined to the kidney, which makes treatment easier. In stage three, the cancer has spread to some of the surrounding tissue. In stage four, the cancer has spread to multiple sites or to distant parts of the body, such as the liver or lungs.
6. Getting Treatment
Most kidney cancer is treated with surgery. A nephrectomy can be done to remove the affected kidney. This obviously is not a desirable option if the cancer is in both kidneys or if you have already had a kidney removed for a different medical issue. If the cancerous tumor is easily separated from the kidney tissue, it can be taken out without taking the kidney. This is called nephron-sparing surgery. It allows for the cancer to be removed without the need for dialysis.
7. Nonsurgical Options
Nonsurgical treatment options also exist for kidney cancer. Cryoblation is used to freeze cancer cells. Gas is injected into the tumor to freeze it. Data about the long term side effects of cryoblation is not available.
8. Additional Options
Radiofrequency ablation is another nonsurgical treatment for kidney cancer. This is the opposite of cryoblation. In radiofrequency ablation, an electrical current is run into the tumor to burn up the cancer cells.
If your kidney cancer recurs, drugs can be used to boost your immune system. This may help you fight off the cancer, though it does come with side effects. These side effects include vomiting, chills, fever, nausea, and loss of appetite.
10. Combating Kidney Cancer
Radiation therapy is another way to treat recurring kidney cancer. It uses high powered energy beams to kill cancer cells. This is often the treatment method employed to fight kidney cancer that has spread to other parts of the body.