What is kidney cancer?
Kidney cancer is a type of cancer that begins in the kidneys when the cells in your body begin to grow at an unstable rate. This out of control growth creates a tumor. The majority of kidney cancers first appear in the lining of the small tubes (tubules) in the kidneys. This type of cancer is also known as renal cell carcinoma.
At this time doctors are unsure of the root cause of kidney cancer however there are health factors that are associated with an increased risk.
• Age – Being over the age of 40
• Smoking – Smoking cigarettes can double your risk for kidney cancer, smoking cigars may also increase your risk.
• Having advanced kidney disease – Long term dialysis for people who no longer have effective kidney functions.
• Obesity – Being overweight may cause hormonal changes that can increase your risk.
• Pain Medications – Certain pain medications used over long periods of time can increase your risk.
• High blood pressure – At this time we are still unsure if the high blood pressure or the medication used to treat high blood pressure increase the risk.
• Having some or all of these risk factors does not guarantee you will develop kidney cancer, some patients have no risk factors and still develop the disease.
How is kidney cancer diagnosed?
In the early stages the tumor is small and early symptoms may not appear. As the tumor increases in size more symptoms will become apparent.
• Blood in urine
• A bulge or lump in your abdomen or side
• Extreme Fatigue
• A pain in your side that will not go away
• Unexplained weight loss
• Fever that can last for weeks and is not caused by an illness or infection
• Swelling in your legs or ankles
To be certain your doctor will need to give you a thorough physical exam, review your medical history and run some tests.
Blood and urine tests – Testing your blood and urine can give your doctor clues about what is going on in your body. These will help to diagnose or rule out kidney cancer based upon the results.
Imaging tests – Tests such as an MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging), ultrasound and a CT (Computerized Tomography) will allow your doctor to visualize any abnormalities you may have.
Biopsy (removing a small sample of the kidney tissue) – Although rare, your doctor may decide to run a biopsy test. If a suspicious area of your kidney is detected in the imaging tests a biopsy can be taken and sent to a lab for testing. The lab can run further tests and look for sign of cancer.
How fast does kidney cancer spread?
At its earliest stages kidney cancer is very aggressive. Kidney cancer can be much more dangerous than other forms of cancer because it is often difficult to diagnose in the early stages, however if caught it is curable. As the cancer progresses your chances worsen for a positive outcome.
In later stages kidney cancer outgrows and infects other parts of the body most commonly the liver and lungs which is done through your blood stream and or lymph nodes.
How is kidney cancer treated?
Kidney cancer can be slowed down when caught in the early stages (stage 1 and stage 2). The treatment course will often be determined by the size and location of the tumor. A surgical procedure with targeted therapy immunotherapy is the most common treatment. In later stages chemotherapy and radiation will be utilized often in combination to suppress the growth of any cancerous tissues.
There are four stages of kidney cancer
• Stage I. At stage 1, the tumor can be up to 2 3/4 inches (7 centimeters) in diameter. The tumor is confined to the kidney.
• Stage II. A stage II kidney cancer is larger than 2 ¾ inches in diameter, but it's still confined to the kidney and not infected any other organs.
• Stage III. At this stage, the tumor extends beyond the kidney to the surrounding tissue and may also have spread to nearby lymph nodes.
• Stage IV. Cancer has spread outside the kidney, to multiple lymph nodes or to distant parts of the body, such as the bones, liver or lungs.
If possible your doctor may decide that surgery is the best option, which type of surgery will be based on they stage of your cancer, its location, and your doctor. A nephrectomy or partial nephrectomy can be performed.
Removing the affected kidney is known as a nephrectomy. A complete nephrectomy means the entire kidney and a small border of healthy tissue are removed. Other nearby tissues such as the adrenal glands, lymph nodes may also be removed if needed. A nephrectomy is performed with a single incision in the abdomen or through a series of small (laparoscopic) incisions.
Removing just the tumor from the infected kidney is known as a partial nephrectomy. Another common name or removing just the tumor and not the entire kidney is kidney-sparing. Your surgeon will remove the tumor and a small section of tissue surrounding it. This procedure can also be done as a large incision or laparoscopically and can be assisted robotically. Whenever possible kidney-sparing is the preferred treatment to help preserve kidney function and reduce complications later in life suck as chronic kidney disease, which can lead to dialysis.
Nonsurgical options are also viable treatments depending on your risk factors and tumor size.
Cryoablation (A treatment which freezes the cancer cells). A specialized hollow needle is inserted into your kidney through your skin by using an ultrasound or similar image guidance technique. A cold gas Is then used which cools the tumor and freezes the cancer cells killing them.
Radiofrequency ablation, is the opposite of cryoablation, a probe is inserted through your skin again using an ultrasound to reach your kidney. An electrical current passes through the probe and into the cancerous cells which heats them up and cause them to burn.
Only your doctor can determine the best course of action to treat your kidney cancer, if you are experiencing any of the above symptoms, or have a family history or other risk factors please call Philadelphia Urology at 215-563-1199 to schedule an appointment or simply contact us online today!
At Philadelphia Urology Associates, Dr. Bruce Sloane is a nationally renowned specialist in Men's Health issues and Age Management Medicine. Throughout Philadelphia and the surrounding areas, patients seek his expertise to treat premature ejaculation and other sexual performance issues. Using state-of-the-art equipment and having extensive specialized education and training, Dr. Sloane will find the treatments and solutions that will work for you.