kidney cancer affects men about twice as often as women. most people who contract this disease are over the age of 50.
the exact causes of kidney cancer are not well understood. kidney cancer is not contagious; no one can catch any type of cancer from another person.
scientists have learned that smoking is a major risk factor for kidney cancer. smokers are twice as likely to get this disease as nonsmokers. several studies also suggest that the risk of developing kidney cancer may be higher than average among people with certain jobs. groups with increased risk include coke oven workers and those who work with asbestos. research also shows that being overweight can increase the chance of getting some types of cancer. kidney cancer may be one of them.
the most common symptom of kidney cancer is blood in the urine. in some cases, a person can actually see the blood. it may be present one day and not the next. another symptom of kidney cancer is a lump or mass that can be felt in the kidney area. the tumor may cause a dull ache or pain in the back or side.
to diagnose kidney cancer, the patients personal and family medical history is taken and a thorough physical examination is conducted. in addition to checking temperature, pulse, blood pressure, and other general signs of health, the doctor usually orders blood and urine tests and one or more of the below mentioned exams :
if these tests suggest that a tumor is present, it is important to know the extent, or stage, of the disease. because kidney cancer can spread to the bones, lungs, liver, or brain, staging procedures may include special x-rays and tests to check these organs.
treatment for kidney cancer depends on the location and size of the tumor and whether the cancer has spread to other organs. kidney cancer is treated with surgery, embolization, or hormone therapy, biological therapy, or chemotherapy, which are forms of systemic therapy and rarely radiation therapy.
most kidney cancer patients have surgery, an operation called radical nephrectomy. in some cases, the surgeon removes the whole kidney or just the part of the kidney that contains the tumor. more often, the surgeon removes the whole kidney along with the adrenal gland and the fat around the kidney. also, nearby lymph nodes may be removed because they are one of the first places where kidney cancer spreads. finding cancer cells in the lymph nodes means there may be cancer elsewhere in the body.
radical nephrectomy is major surgery. for a few days after the operation, most patients need medicine to relieve pain. discomfort may make it difficult to breathe deeply, and patients have to do special coughing and breathing exercises to keep their lungs clear. patients may need iv (intravenous) feedings and fluids for several days before and after the operation. nurses will keep track of the amount of fluid the patient takes in and the amount of urine produced. the remaining kidney takes over the work of the one that was removed.
in embolization, a substance is injected to clog the renal blood vessels. the tumor shrinks because it does not get the blood supply it needs to grow. in some cases, embolization makes surgery easier. when surgery is not possible, this treatment may help reduce pain and bleeding.
embolization can cause pain, fever, nausea, or vomiting. these problems are treated with medicine. often, patients also require intravenous fluids.