What is kidney cancer?
Kidney cancer is a relatively common form of cancer that impacts the kidneys (usually only one kidney is affected). The kidneys are responsible for filtering the blood to remove waste products and convert them into urine. Most people have two kidneys but it is possible to live with just one. Around 2-3 percent of adult cancer cases involve kidney cancer and there has been a significant increase in the number of cases in recent years. This is in line with the growing number of people who are obese in the UK. Kidney cancer is more common in men than women.
Types of kidney cancer
There are different types of kidney cancer with the most common being renal cell cancer, which accounts for 90 percent of kidney cancer cases. Rare forms of the disease include cancer of the ureter and transitional cell cancer.
What are the causes of kidney cancer?
The precise origin of kidney cancer is unidentified in many cases. However, a number of risk factors are supposed to play a role. These include:
- Being overweight
- Environmental factors (exposure to certain chemicals at work, for example)
- Medical conditions, including high blood pressure and kidney conditions, increase the risk of kidney cancer
- Family history
Symptoms of kidney cancer
Symptoms associated with kidney cancer include:
- Blood in the urine
- Unexplained weight loss
- Night sweats
- Pain around the kidneys or in the side
- A lump in the kidney area
- Generally feeling unwell
- High temperature
Many of the symptoms are allied with other health issues but it is always a good idea to get checked over by your doctor; especially if you see blood in your urine.
How is kidney cancer diagnosed?
If your GP suspects that there is a chance you have kidney cancer they will pass your case to a specialist who will conduct further tests. These may include an ultrasound, CT scan, intravenous urogram, biopsy and MRI scan. The results of the tests will be used to confirm the diagnosis.
How is kidney cancer treated?
Kidney cancer can be treated by removing part of or the entire affected kidney if cancer has not stretched to other parts of the body; it is possible to live a healthy life with only one kidney. If all the cancer cannot be removed by surgery, other treatments including radiotherapy or chemotherapy may be used.
What is the outlook for kidney cancer?
The outlook depends largely on when the cancer was diagnosed. If cancer is diagnosed in the very early stages the prognosis is good, but if it has spread to other parts of the body the outlook is not so good.
Living with kidney cancer
Coming to terms with the reality that you have kidney cancer is very complex and you may experience a host of different emotions. Your care team will cater for all your medical needs and they can also offer emotional support. If you require additional information, advice or support you can get in touch with one of the UK's cancer charities.