What is Kidney Cancer?
The cancer that develops in the tissues of the kidneys is known as kidney cancer. This bean-shaped organ is located at the back of abdominal organs having one kidney at each side of the spine. When there is uncontrollable growth of normal cells in one or both kidneys that eventually forms a mass that results in the beginning of kidney cancer.
Types of Kidney Cancer
Kidney cancer can be categorized into different types that include –
Wilms Tumor: This is seen most commonly in children that can be successfully treated with the help of chemotherapy and radiation therapy.
Renal Cell Carcinoma: Majority of kidney cancers are renal cell carcinoma that accounts for around 85%. This cancer typically occurs inside the microscopic filtering systems of the kidney.
Sarcoma: This is considered as a rare type of kidney cancer that can be treated with the help of surgery. Chemotherapy along with surgery is the best treatment option for this cancer as sarcoma can develop large before being discovered.
Transitional Cell Carcinoma: Transitional cell carcinoma, also known as Urothelial carcinoma, typically starts in the kidney area where urine gets collected before reaching to the bladder. This is considered and treated like a bladder cancer.
Causes of Kidney Cancer
The causes of kidney cancer are still not fully indentified. The beginning of kidney cancer takes place when some cells of the kidney acquire mutations in their DNA. This results in rapid development and division of the cells. The build-up of abnormal cells eventually forms a tumor that can even spread beyond the kidney.
Symptoms of Kidney Cancer
- A feeling of tiredness or of poor health
- Blood in the urine
- Weight loss
- Pain in the side that does not heal
- A mass or lump in the side or in the abdomen
Stages of Kidney Cancer
Stage 1: The first stage is marked by the tumor of about 7 centimeters in diameter. The tumor has not spread and is confined to the kidney.
Stage 2: The second stage is marked by a larger tumor as compared to the first stage but it is still limited to the kidneys.
Stage 3: Now in the third stage, the tumor has spread beyond the kidney to the nearby tissue. Tumor may also have extended to nearby lymph node.
Stage 4: The last and final stage is marked by the spread of the cancer outside the kidney. This cancer has affected a number of lymph nodes or distant parts of the body like lungs, bones, liver or brain.
Diagnosis of Kidney Cancer
Ultrasound Test: Sound waves are used by the ultrasound devices that help in bouncing off the kidneys. The echoes are then used by the computer for creating a picture known as a sonogram. This sonogram shows the presence of a cyst or a solid tumor.
Physical Exam: The general health of a patient is checked in order to notice the signs of fever and high blood pressure.
Biopsy: A biopsy is performed by removing a tissue for viewing cancer cells. A small amount of tissue is removed by inserting a thin needle through the skin and into the kidney. X-rays or ultrasound may also require for guiding the needle.
Blood Tests: The working of the kidneys is checked by performing a blood test. This test helps in determining the level of creatinine. The kidneys are not working properly if there are high levels of creatinine.
CT scan: Detailed images of the kidneys are taken by linking an x-ray machine with a computer. A dye may also be injected for clearly viewing the pictures. This test can show a kidney tumor.
Urine Tests: A urine test is performed for checking blood and signs of the disease.
Intravenous Pyelogram (IVP): The injection of a dye is done into a vein in the arm. This dye then moves throughout the body and gets collected in the kidneys. A number of x-rays then tracks the dye when it is traveling from the kidneys to the bladder and ureters. Kidney tumors along with other problems can be seen by the means of these x-rays.
Treatment of Kidney Cancer
The main treatment for kidney cancer is surgery. Following are some of the types of operations –
Radical Nephrectomy: The entire affected kidney is removed for large renal cell carcinoma tumors. The surgical procedure may also remove nearby lymph nodes, the adrenal gland above the kidney and the surrounding fatty tissue.
The removal of a part or the entire kidney does not affect the normal working of the kidneys.
Partial Nephrectomy: The removal of the cancer as well as a small part of kidney is a type of surgery for treating renal cell carcinoma. This procedure is primarily performed for small tumors that are less than 4cm and are also accessible. The preservation of kidneys is the main benefit of this procedure.
Surgery for Advanced Cancer: The surgical procedure is performed for removing secondary tumors that have spread to different body parts.
Chemotherapy: Several drugs are used in this therapy for destroying cancer cells. Systemic chemotherapy is a procedure where the injection of these drugs is done into vein that then enters the bloodstream and travels in the entire body.
Immunotherapy: Immunotherapy, also known as biologic therapy, helps in boosting the natural defenses of the body to fight against cancer. The function of the immune system is improved and restored by using certain materials that can be made in the laboratory or by the body itself. This therapy has proved beneficial for many patients.
Radiation Therapy: High-energy radiation beams are used for destroying the cancer cells. External-beam radiation is considered as the most common type of radiation therapy treatment. This treatment is given by using a machine that is placed outside the body. On the other hand, internal radiation therapy (Brachytherapy) provides the radiation treatment by using implants.