Kidney cancer is also termed as renal cancer, and it is considered as the twelfth common type of cancer in the world. Nearly 80 to 90 percent of the kidney cancers are renal parenchymal cancer and the remaining 10 to 20 percent of cancers detected are renal pelvis cancer.
Initially, almost all the renal cancers start from the tiny tubules called renal tubules and cancer of these tubules is referred as renal cell carcinoma. Renal cancers can be diagnosed in its early stages before they metastasize to other organs and are successfully treated.
Cancer can be caused by mutations in the genetic material. As a result, the mutated cells grow in an uncontrollable fashion and ultimately produce a tumor. Undiagnosed and untreated cancers spread to other body parts, through the lymphatic system and will then be able to invade the vital organs such as bones, blood, and other organs
Obesity can also be one of the causes for renal cancer. In obese conditions, the body’s hormones are imbalanced leading to renal cancer.
The risk of kidney cancer increases if a close relative has it. Some genetic syndromes such as Von Hippel-Lindau syndrome and lifestyle diseases such as high blood pressure can be the cause for developing renal cancer.
The common factors that increase the risk of kidney cancer include:
• Older age
• High blood pressure
• Inherited syndromes (Birt-Hogg-Dube syndrome)
Types of kidney cancer
Renal cell carcinoma is the most common type of kidney cancer; it affects the part of the kidney where blood is filtered. This type of cancer is seen in adults.
Renal pelvis carcinoma affects the part of the kidney where urine collection occurs. This type of cancer is usually uncommon.
Wilms’ tumor is the most common type of kidney cancer that occurs in the children below 5 years. Wilms’ tumor is caused due to the inactivation of QT1 which is a tumor suppressor gene.
There may not be any signs and symptoms during the early stages of kidney cancer, in the later stages kidney cancer exhibits certain symptoms which include:
• Hematuria (blood in urine)
• Unusual weight loss
• Feeling tired easily
• Pain below the ribs
• Intermittent fever
• An unusual lump in the abdomen
The following tests are performed to diagnose the kidney cancer
- Blood and urine tests are performed to rule out any infectious conditions.
- An ultrasound scan uses sound waves to create the pictures of the kidney and tubules. It is used to identify any changes in the shape of the kidney due to the tumor.
- CT scan (computer tomography) creates 3-dimensional images. During the procedure, a dye is administered to highlight the problematic zones on the scan.
- A biopsy is performed when the doctor suspects the presence of a tumor. It helps understand whether the tumor is cancerous or not. For this, a small tissue from the kidney is removed and examined under a microscope.
- Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) creates more detailed images of the kidney. A contrast agent is injected to create more clarified images.
- A renal arteriogram is performed to evaluate the blood supply to the tumor. This test is more suitable for diagnosing small tumors.
There are certain anticancer drugs that help stop the formation of newer blood vessels in which the cancer cells nourishes. Some of the drugs include axitinib, bevacizumab, etc.
Depending on the stage of cancer the type of surgery is recommended :
Radical nephrectomy is the most common type of surgery for kidney cancer; it is performed through a small incision with the help of a laparoscope. The surgery removes the kidney, adrenal gland and surrounding tissue along with nearby lymph nodes.
Simple nephrectomy is a minimally invasive procedure that removes only the kidneys.
Partial nephrectomy is performed to remove the cancer cells from the kidney along with the surrounding tissue. This procedure usually opts for the removal of small tumors.
If surgical approach fails to benefit, then the doctor recommends other forms of treatment which include:
- Cryotherapy is the procedure that uses an extreme cold effect to kill the cancerous mass.
- Radiofrequency ablation uses high-frequency electric currents that destroy the cancerous cells
- Arterial embolization is the procedure that blocks the blood flow to the tumor present in the kidney. The technique needs an inserting material into the artery that leads to the kidney. This procedure is also performed for shrinking the tumor before the surgery.
Self-management and prevention
Smoking is the lead cause for almost all diseases, therefore, quit smoking. Follow healthy dietary habits, and consume more fruits and vegetables. Perform regular physical activities and maintain optimal body weight. Sleep for at least 7 hours every night, and execute measures to beat stress.