Kidney cancer, also known as renal cancer, occurs when cells in one or both kidneys start growing out of control. The kidneys are a pair of organs attached to the upper back wall of the abdomen, just to the right and left of the backbone. They remove excess water, salt and waste from the blood. Kidney cancer develops in the tiny tubules inside the kidneys that make urine to rid the body of those impurities.
Kidney cancer is highly treatable. It is among the 10 most common cancers in the United States. The majority of cases develop after the age of 50 and the disease is nearly twice as likely in men than in women.
The kidneys also make hormones that help control blood pressure and ensure sufficient red blood cells. Most people have two kidneys, which work independently. It is possible to live with just one functioning kidney or with the help of dialysis, without working kidneys.
Types of Kidney Cancer
Renal cell carcinoma: Referred to as RCC, this is the most common form of kidney cancer, accounting for most adult cases. It often arises as a single tumor in one kidney, although two or more tumors may be present. Tumors might also develop in both kidneys simultaneously.
RCC has various subtypes. The most common is clear cell renal cell carcinoma. comprising about 80% of RCCs. Papillary accounts for about 10% of RCC types and about 5% are chromophobe renal cell carcinoma.
Much rarer subtypes also exist. Determining the subtype can help in deciding the most effective treatment and whether an inherited genetic mutation might have caused the cancer.
Wilms Tumor: Also known as nephroblastoma, it is a very rare childhood cancer annually diagnosed in about 500 children between the ages of 2 and 5.
In its early phase, kidney cancer usually does not produce symptoms. The disease is often discovered during treatment for other conditions. However, the following signs are possible:
- Blood in the urine, which may or may not be seen by the naked eye.
- Low back pain on one side.
- A lump on the side or lower back.
- Appetite loss.
- Sudden unintentional weight loss.
- Persistent fever not caused by an infection
- Swollen ankles or legs
- Smoking is the biggest risk factor for kidney cancer. It produces chemicals that pass through the kidneys, potentially damaging them.
- Gender: Men are nearly twice as likely to develop kidney cancer than are women.
- Age: The disease is more common after the age of 50. Most people are diagnosed between the ages of 65 and 74.
- High blood pressure
- Advanced kidney disease, especially if dialysis is used.
- Family history. We offer genetic counseling for patients and families to help them understand their risk of kidney cancer.
- Race: African-Americans have a slighter higher risk of papillary kidney cancer.
- Rare inherited conditions
Overlake offers multiple approaches to treating and managing kidney cancer. Each patient’s treatment plan is determined based on their unique needs and circumstances, including age, overall health and the size of their kidney tumor. These treatment options include:
- Active surveillance: Sometimes, kidney tumors grow so slowly that they are unlikely to cause kidney problems or spread to other areas of the body. Active surveillance is an approach where doctors closely monitor kidney tumors to see if they are growing, and start treatment if necessary.
- Ablation: An approach using heat or cold to destroy a kidney tumor
- Partial nephrectomy: A surgery that removes the tumor and part of the kidney
- Radical nephrectomy: A surgery removing the tumor and the entire kidney
Partial nephrectomy is typically the preferred treatment if it is feasible, based on the size and location of the tumor. In many cases, surgery for kidney cancer can be performed using robotic/laparoscopic techniques. These techniques are highly precise and less invasive, resulting in less pain, less blood loss and faster recovery.
Top-Quality Kidney Cancer Expertise
The Overlake Cancer Center, affiliated with the Seattle Cancer Care Alliance, offers state-of-the-art kidney cancer care with extraordinary compassion and focus on all aspects of your wellness. To make an appointment or for answers to any questions, call us today at 425-454-8016.