The kidneys are reddish-brown bean-shaped organs located just above the waist, one on each side of the spine. As part of the urinary system, their main jobs are filtering blood and making urine to get rid of body wastes. Renal cell carcinoma is a type of kidney cancer. It accounts for 90% to 95% of kidney cancers, but it’s not very common (occurs in 1 of 10,000 people yearly). Twice as many men as women have it, usually between 50 and 70 years old.
Early disease may cause no symptoms. As the tumor grows, symptoms may include:
- Blood in the urine.
- Lump or mass in the kidney area.
- Loss of appetite.
- Pain in the abdomen (belly).
Your healthcare provider makes a preliminary diagnosis by using special x-rays, including computed tomography (CT), magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), and ultrasonography.
The only way to confirm the diagnosis is with a biopsy. For a biopsy, the doctor removes a small piece of the kidney and checks it with a microscope. CT or MRI is also used to learn the stage or extent of disease, which helps plan treatment. Staging tells the health care provider whether the cancer has spread (such as to lymph nodes (glands) or lungs) and, if so, how far.
- Nephrectomy: The most common treatment is an operation to remove the kidney. The whole kidney, adrenal gland, tissue around the kidney, and lymph nodes may be removed.
- Arterial Embolization: A procedure used to shrink the tumor. It blocks the main blood vessel to the kidney, so the tumor doesn't get the oxygencarrying blood and other substances that it needs to grow.
- Radiation therapy (or radiotherapy): Highenergy radiation to kill cancer cells. It can also be used to relieve pain (as palliative therapy) when kidney cancer spread to bones.
- Chemotherapy: Using drugs for killing cancer cells is generally not very helpful against kidney cancer.
- Immunotherapy: This treatment involves the use of biological agents such as interferon, sunitinib, and bevacizumab. It is a newer treatment modality that has shown some success in the treatment of advanced kidney cancer.
- Understand that diagnosis and treatment of this cancer will need a team of doctors including your primary care health care provider, surgeon, oncologist, and maybe radiation oncologist.
- Call your health care provider if you see blood in your urine or you have pain or a lump in your abdomen.
- Call your health care provider if you have fever after surgery.
- Contact your health care provider if you see drainage from the surgical incision site.
- Remember that all treatments have side effects. For example, surgery can cause pain and infection. Radiation can cause dry, red, itchy skin. Chemotherapy can cause nausea, vomiting, hair loss, easy bruising, easy bleeding, and infections.
- Do not be afraid to ask for a second opinion.
This information is not intended to replace advice given to you by your health care provider.