Kidney (or renal) cancer, is the eighth most common cancer in adults in the UK, with around 10,000 new cases each year. There are several types of kidney cancer: around 4 in 5 cases are renal cell carcinomas, with the rest made up of rarer types such as Wilms’ tumour and transitional cell carcinoma. The outcome of kidney cancer is better if diagnosed early. Therefore, if you are experiencing any symptoms associated with the condition, see a GP or oncologist.
The most common signs of kidney cancer are blood in the urine (haematuria), persistent pain below the ribs, and a lump on either side of your body. Unfortunately, these symptoms often only present in mid- to advanced-stage kidney cancer. Less common features include fatigue, weight loss, high temperature, night sweats, loss of appetite, and high blood pressure.
Kidney cancer is caused by genetic changes (mutations) in cells of the kidney, causing them to grow and divide uncontrollably. The exact reason why some people develop this condition is not well understood, but it is likely that a combination of inherited genetic factors, and environmental factors are responsible. Smoking and obesity appear to be the most significant environmental risk factors for kidney cancer. In addition high blood pressure and kidney failure appear to increase your risk of developing kidney cancer.
The treatment of kidney cancer depends on how far it has spread and how big it is. Treatment usually begins with surgery to remove the cancerous cells in the tumour. This can either be a full nephrectomy, in which the whole kidney is removed, or a partial nephrectomy in which only a part of the kidney is removed. If you are unable to undergo nephrectomy, embolisation may be considered. This involves inserting a small tube into the groin and guiding it towards the blood vessels supplying the kidney. A substance will then be inserted through the tube, blocking the blood supply to the kidney and thus starving the tumour of oxygen and nutrients.
Chemotherapy is not used in kidney cancer, but radiotherapy may be useful in slowing the progression of the tumour and reducing pain. If you are not fit enough for surgery, other options may be considered such as cryotherapy, in which the cancer cells are frozen, and radiofrequency ablation, where radio waves are passed through the skin to kill cancer cells. Additionally, a handful of new ‘targeted therapies’ have begun to be incorporated into kidney cancer treatment. These include sunitinib, pazopanib, and axitinib, all of which are taken orally.
This article is for information only and should not be used for the diagnosis or treatment of medical conditions. Doctify Limited has used all reasonable care in compiling the information but makes no warranty as to its accuracy. Consult a doctor or other health care professional for diagnosis and treatment of medical conditions. In the event of an emergency, please call 999 for immediate assistance.