- Symptoms of Kidney Cancer
- Kidney Cancer Risk Factors
- Steps to Prevention
- Treatment Options
- Coping with Kidney Cancer
- Kidney Cancer Resources
According to the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, kidney cancer affects 55,000 people in the United States each year. It is more common in men than women and is considered more prevalent in the elderly. Although there is no direct cause of kidney cancer, learning how symptoms present themselves, what you can do to lower your risk and what treatment options are available will better prepare you for facing kidney cancer.
Symptoms of Kidney Cancer
Blood – If you see blood in your urine, this is a definite red flag. The color of the blood may vary from pink to rusty, but any sign of blood should be taken seriously.
Pain – If you are experiencing a great deal of pain toward your back or side which is not caused by an injury and does not seem to go away, this could indicate kidney cancer.
Weight Loss – Experiencing a sudden weight loss is a warning sign for kidney cancer.
Fatigue – Having a strong sense of weakness and fatigue is considered a sign of kidney cancer.
Fever – A fever that will not go away and is not brought on by infection can indicate kidney cancer.
Swelling – Swollen ankles or legs can be an indicator of kidney cancer.
Kidney Cancer Risk Factors
Like most forms of cancer, there is no known direct cause of kidney cancer, but there are some risk factors that can affect your chances of developing the disease. Some factors can be mitigated with changes to your lifestyle while others are fixed, like age or family history.
Smoking – Choosing to smoke raises your risk for many different types of cancer, including kidney cancer.
Weight – Being overweight puts you at a higher risk for kidney cancer.
Work Exposure – If your workplace has dangerous chemicals, you run the risk of developing kidney cancer.
Gender – Men are more likely to have kidney cancer than women.
Family History – A history of kidney cancer or other kidney problems predisposes you to developing kidney cancer.
High Blood Pressure – Having high blood pressure raises your risk of developing kidney cancer.
Kidney Disease – If you have advanced kidney disease, you run a greater risk of contracting kidney cancer.
Age – The older you are, the higher you are at risk for kidney cancer.
Steps to Prevention
With no known cause, there is no specific way to prevent kidney cancer. However, there are preventative measures that you can take to help you lower your chances of developing the disease.
Stop Smoking – When you abstain from smoking, you lower your risk for developing many different types of cancer. The American Lung Association offers many services and a helpline to encourage people to stop smoking.
Lower Your Blood Pressure – Have your doctor check your blood pressure. If your pressure is high, discuss ways to lower your numbers. Changing your lifestyle by eating healthier and exercising more might help, but some people still require the additional help of medication to lower their blood pressure.
Eat Healthy – Your body needs proper fuel to keep going and to stay healthy. Eating a diet that is high in fruits and vegetables can lower your chances of contracting kidney cancer.
Maintain a Healthy Weight – Kidney cancer occurs more frequently in people who are overweight. You can help protect yourself from this type of cancer, and many other types as well, by maintaining a healthy weight. A combination of healthy eating and exercise should help you achieve this goal.
Enforce Workplace Safety – Be sure to wear protective gear and exercise safety if you work around chemicals. Some harmful chemicals and toxins have been linked to kidney cancer.
There are numerous treatment options available for patients diagnosed with kidney cancer.
Surgery – The American Cancer Society mentions several surgical options, but two main surgeries associated with kidney cancer are nephrectomy (this involves removing the cancerous kidney) and nephron-sparing surgery (this involves removing the tumor area from the kidney). More invasive surgeries, like the removal of an adrenal gland or lymph node, depend on how the cancer is spreading.
Biological Therapy – This type of treatment uses your own immune system to help attack cancer. Unfortunately the side effects include experiencing strong flu-like symptoms such as fever, chills, nausea, vomiting, etc.
Cryotherapy – This treatment involves using extreme cold to kill the tumor. A long, thin, hollow needle is inserted into the affected area and freezing gas is sent through the needle to form an ice pack around the tumor and destroy it.
Radiofrequency Ablation – This treatment uses a long, thin, hollow needle that is inserted as close to the tumor as possible and high-energy waves are sent through the needle to heat the tumor and kill the cancer cells.
Targeted Therapy – The therapy involves using drugs to target specific cancer cells. Some side effects to this type of therapy include rashes, diarrhea and fatigue.
Radiation Therapy – This treatment uses high-energy beams or X-rays to kill cancer cells and is also used to ease the intensity of kidney cancer symptoms.
Clinical Trials – Cutting-edge research and fresh ideas are helping make new treatments available every day. You can talk with your medical team and find out if you qualify for a clinical trial. Your eligibility is determined by factors such as where your cancer is located, how far it has spread, your age, etc.
Whatever treatment options are available to you, it is important to talk with your medical team to weigh the benefits and risks involved with each specific treatment. Most of these treatments come with some intense side effects, so it is important to be prepared for all aspects of treatment.
Coping with Kidney Cancer
Fighting cancer can alter your life in a significant way. It is normal to feel overwhelmed, tired, lonely, frustrated and confused. Finding real support during this time is important. It might seem like a daunting task, but no one should ever feel like they are going through this battle alone.
Personal Support – Going through cancer is an emotional and physical whirlwind that might leave you feeling depressed. Find strength by making your own body a priority. You may not be able to do all of the exercises you used to but do what you can as your body allows. Do your best to eat healthy meals and drink plenty of water. Eating nutrient rich meals gives your body the energy it needs to fight cancer better.
Community Support – Going through an illness can be very isolating, but now more than ever is the time to reach out to others. By building a strong support network, you can find encouragement, hope and friendship. Try visiting a support group, talking with other cancer survivors or going to a counselor. Sometimes, something as simple as having someone listen to you can make a big difference.
Medical Support – Having a team of doctors, nurses and caregivers that you trust is very important. Take time to really discuss things with your medical team, share your hopes, fears and questions. Do not be afraid to seek out separate opinions in regards to prevention and treatment. With world-renowned physicians spread out across the United States, the possibilities of elite health care are endless. You might feel like cancer has taken away many of your choices, but your ability to choose your own doctor is still yours.
Kidney Cancer Resources
The following list provides helpful information for learning more about kidney cancer.
Kidney Cancer Association
PO Box 803338 #38269
Chicago, IL 60680-3338
American Urological Association
1000 Corporate Boulevard
Linthicum, MD 21090
National Kidney Foundation
30 East 33rd Street
New York, NY 10016
National Cancer Institute
6116 Executive Boulevard, Suite 300
Bethesda, MD 20892-8322
American Cancer Society
PO Box 22718
Oklahoma City, Oklahoma 73123-1718