About the condition
The kidneys are a matched pair of organs that help remove waste chemicals from the body into urine. This is done by filtering urea, salt and other substances from the blood as it flows through the kidneys. The kidneys also act as glands that produce and secrete a variety of hormones.
The cells of the kidneys occasionally start to multiply uncontrollably and form a growth or tumour. The malignant tumours can invade and destroy nearby tissues and organs or spread to other parts of the body through the bloodstream or the lymphatic system.
The most common symptom of kidney is blood in the urine, although this could be a sign of a number of disorders other than cancer. The symptoms include:
Tests and diagnosis
- Presence of a lump or mass in the tummy
- Pain in the flank
- Weight loss
Kidney cancer can be diagnosed through the following clinical findings and laboratory tests.
Blood and urine tests
Blood tests will indicate how well the kidneys are functioning while the urine will be tested for the presence of blood and other signs of disease.
An ultrasound uses high frequency sound waves to generate pictures of internal organs and is used to locate growths or tumours.
CT Scan or MRI
CT scans produce detailed images of internal organs and will show up the presence of tumours. MRI involves the use of magnetic fields and radio waves to create cross-sectional pictures. All these will help your doctor determine the presence of abnormal masses in your body.
The stages of kidney cancer are:
This is early stage kidney cancer where the tumour measures up to 7 cm and is only confined to the kidneys.
The tumour is bigger but is still found only in the kidneys.
The tumour is located in the kidneys, but the cancer cells have invaded nearby organs or has spread to a lymph node through the lymphatic system.
The cancer has spread to more lymph nodes or other places in the body.
The choice of treatment would depend on the kidney cancer profile, including:
- age and life expectancy
- medical condition and risk factors
- presence of significant illnesses, such as heart problem, stroke, diabetes and so on
- type and location or spread of kidney cancer
Your doctor will assess your cancer profile and recommend one of the following treatment options:
This involves the partial or complete removal of the affected kidney (nephrectomy). A person can live a normal lifespan with only one kidney if the remaining kidney is healthy. This option is usually taken up if the tumour is confined to the kidney. Mostly all nephrectomies could be done by laparoscopic surgery (key-hole surgery)
This treatment option employs high energy x-rays to destroy cancer cells. It is also used to relieve pain where kidney cancer is advanced and cannot be removed surgically.
This involves the use of chemicals or proteins to boost the body's immune system. The treatment has been used in advanced kidney cancer with occasional good results. While not a cure, immunotherapy can prolong the life of a person with advanced kidney cancer.