Can You Spot the Symptoms of Renal Cell Carcinoma?

The kidneys are some of the most hardworking organs in the body. Kidneys are responsible for a variety of different jobs including filtering a huge amount of toxic substances out of the body through urine. Kidneys keep the bloodstream healthy and balanced. However, like most aspects of the body, the kidney are a potential growth location for cancer. 

Renal cell carcinoma is the most common form of kidney cancer. Nine out of every ten reports cases of kidney cancer turn out to be renal cell carcinoma. While documented cases of kidney cancer seem to be increasing, it’s potentially simply due to CT scans being used for more issues and allowing kidney cancer to be spotted accidentally. The earlier kidney cancer is discovered, the more viable treatment options become. 

Causes and Risk Factors of Renal Cell Carcinoma

Unfortunately, like many forms of cancer, there’s no clear cause of why some people get renal cell carcinoma and others don’t. There do seem to be some risk factors however. People who have one or more of these risk factors may be more likely to end up having kidney cancer. Risk Factors include: 

  • Age - People are at a higher risk as they get older
  • Obesity - Obesity is a consistent risk factor compared to average weight or fit individuals. 
  • Smoking - Smoking increases the risks of many forms of cancer including kidney cancer. 
  • Hypertension - This form of extremely high blood pressure is a known risk factor. 
  • Family History - People who have a strong connection to renal cell carcinoma through family members are at a higher risk. 
  • Kidney Failure - The treatment for kidney failure is long-term dialysis. People undergoing this treatment can find themselves at risk. 
  • Specific Disorders - There are a variety of disorders and syndromes which can increase the risk of renal cell carcinoma. 
  • Workplace Exposure - There are several different substances like certain herbicides or cadmium which can potentially increase risk. 

Symptoms of Renal Cell Carcinoma

Unfortunately, renal cell carcinoma symptoms aren’t always noticeable at first. The signs and symptoms don’t present themselves or are so slight as to not be noticed. What’s worse is there are no obvious or common tests for forms of kidney cancer. This means that it’s more common for kidney cancer to be discovered later after it has developed in severity. At this point symptoms appear. Some of the symptoms of renal cell carcinoma include: 

  • Urine Alteration - Typically some blood will appear in the urine. This can turn the urine brown, pink or red. 
  • Pain - Specifically, this pain occurs in a person’s back or side in the general vicinity of where the kidney resides. This pain doesn’t resolve itself and go away. 
  • Weight Loss - This is unexpected and unexplained weight loss. 
  • Tiredness - Fatigue can be common for those suffering from renal cell carcinoma. 
  • Fever - Rather than a constant fever, this fever may appear and disappear repeatedly. 
  • Loss of Appetite - There may be no interest in food as renal cell carcinoma worsens. 

Treatment of Renal Cell Carcinoma

When it comes to kidney cancer, there are options available. Treatment will be developed based on what stage of cancer is observed and the severity of the cancer. Unlike some other forms of cancer, surgery is often the first option. There are two types of surgery. The first will remove the entire kidney. This is a nephrectomy. In addition to the kidney, some nearby tissue, lymph nodes and the adrenal gland may also have to be removed. A partial nephrectomy will attempt to just remove the tumor and a small area of tissue around the kidney. This is especially common if a person is already down to one kidney or if the cancer is small. Small cancers may also be able to be treated through cryoablation (freezing the cells) or radiofrequency ablation (heating cancer cells). 

If the cancer spreads to other parts of the body, or recurs in the kidneys, then there’s other treatments that may be required. Some of these include: 

  • Radiation Therapy - Energy beams bombard the cancer cells. 
  • Targeted Therapy - This therapy targets the signals used by cancer cells in the kidney to grow. 
  • Biological Therapy - This method attempts to fight renal cell carcinoma by boosting and redirecting the immune system.
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