Kidney cancer is also called renal cancer. It is one of the ten most common cancers in both men and women.
Kidney Cancer Risk Factors
- Family history: People with family members, especially siblings, who have had kidney cancer are at an increased risk.
- Smoking: Smoking may increase risk of getting kidney cancer.
- High blood pressure: The risk of kidney cancer is higher in people with high blood pressure.
- Certain medicines: A once popular pain-reliever called phenacetin and some prescriptions used to treat high blood pressure may be linked to kidney cancer.
- Advanced kidney disease: People with advanced kidney disease and need to be on dialysis are at a higher risk.
- Lack of exercise: People who are not active and/or are overweight have a higher risk of kidney cancer.
Kidney Cancer Signs and Symptoms
Patients experiencing any of these symptoms should consult a physician.
- Lower back pain on one side
- Unexplained weight loss
- Swelling in the ankles and legs
- Persistent fever not from an infection
Kidney Cancer Screening
There are no recommended screening tests for kidney cancer in people who are not at increased risk. This is because no test has been shown to lower the overall risk of dying from kidney cancer.
Sometimes kidney cancer is detected when imaging tests such as CT scans or MRIs are performed for other illnesses, such as gallbladder disease. For patients with an increased risk of kidney cancer, imaging tests may be recommended to specifically screen for kidney tumors.
Kidney Cancer Treatment
If cancer is suspected, the patient will be referred to an oncologist who will conduct tests and determine the appropriate treatment plan. Common treatments for kidney cancer include:
Surgery is the main treatment for most kidney cancers. Sometimes the tumor is removed with a small amount of the surrounding tissue, or the whole kidney may be removed.
Systemic therapies such as immunotherapy and targeted therapy can be used to treat kidney cancer. These are drugs given by mouth or injected into the bloodstream. Chemotherapy may be used if other drugs don’t work, but is not as effective.
Radiation therapy is not as common a treatment because kidney cancers are not very sensitive to radiation. Radiation is used in patients who are not healthy enough for surgery, or as a palliative treatment to ease pain.
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