Kidney cancer is one of the rare diseases. Only between three and four percent of all cancer patients suffer from malignant tumors in the kidneys. Kidney cancer usually occurs in the form of hypernephroma or renal cell carcinoma.
What is kidney cancer?
All malignant tumor tissue that affects the kidneys is summarized under the term kidney cancer. In adult patients, kidney cancer usually presents itself in the form of renal cell carcinoma. In rare cases, Wilms tumors, lymphomas or sarcomas occur in this organ of the body. See etaizhou for What does Ichthyosis Vulgaris Mean.
Furthermore, usually only one kidney is affected by cancer, very rarely both organs of the urinary system suffer from malignant tumors. With regard to gender distribution, it should be noted that more men than women suffer from kidney cancer. Noticeable physical symptoms of this cancer usually only appear at a very late stage of the disease.
Patients often complain of loss of appetite, fever, tiredness and inexplicable back pain. Therefore, kidney cancer is usually discovered incidentally during an abdominal ultrasound scan that the doctor performed on the patient for a different reason.
Like many other types of cancer, kidney cancer has no specific causes. However, there are some factors that favor it.
These include heavy use of nicotine, some painkillers, chronic kidney disease, being very overweight and frequent exposure to certain hazardous substances such as asbestos, some cleaning chemicals and fuel.
Furthermore, genetic dispositions seem to have a meaning. It is estimated that around one percent of all cases of kidney cancer are due to mutated genes.
The altered genetic material probably lacks certain substances that inhibit the development of cancer. This abnormality makes it harder for the body to defend itself against tumors, making it easier for cancer to develop. Among other things, kidney cancer can develop in this way.
Typical Symptoms & Signs
Kidney cancer can be symptom-free for weeks, months or even years. The first symptoms that indicate a serious illness are increasing pain in the flank or back area.
The urine can be reddish to brown in color, and urinary retention and occasionally incontinence can also occur. This is accompanied by general symptoms such as tiredness and exhaustion as well as a general decrease in physical and mental performance. Fever and night sweats also occur.
Due to the disturbed digestion and the persistent feeling of illness, there is also a loss of appetite. Then the patient loses weight and suffers from various deficiency symptoms, such as lassitude, dizziness and irritability. Eventually, a palpable swelling forms in the abdomen. Varicocele of the testicular varicose vein can occur in men.
If the cancer spreads to surrounding areas, other symptoms such as headaches, stomach pains and movement disorders appear. Eventually, the infestation leads to the patient being unable to eat properly and eventually becoming bedridden. If the course is negative, kidney cancer leads to the death of the patient. If the cancer can be completely removed, the organ usually makes a full recovery.
Diagnosis & History
The use of imaging methods is crucial for diagnosing kidney cancer. A physical examination, blood tests and analyzes of the urine do not lead to reliable findings. For this reason, ultrasound examinations, magnetic resonance imaging and computed tomography are used. These procedures have the ability to differentiate between tumors and other kidney diseases.
In addition, an X-ray examination with contrast medium can provide information about a possible cancer of the kidney. Since kidney cancer can lead to life-threatening complications, early detection and treatment is important. In the early stages, the chances of recovery are up to 90 percent. However, if the cancer has already spread to other organs with metastases , the chances of surviving kidney cancer fall drastically, depending on the type of attack.
Kidney cancer often causes serious complications. Malignant kidney tumors are able to spread through the body via blood and lymphatic vessels and infect other parts of the body. A common consequence of kidney cancer is the occurrence of metastases (secondary ulcers). They primarily affect the lymph nodes, bones and lungs. In rare cases, they also affect the patient’s liver or brain.
This in turn can lead to life-threatening complications. These include blood clots that block blood vessels or inflammation of the lungs (pneumonia). Blood clots in the heart, brain and lungs are particularly dangerous. In order to counteract such sequelae, rapid treatment of kidney carcinoma is extremely important. In most cases, surgical intervention takes place.
Larger kidney tumors can obstruct the flow of urine out of the body. This in turn leads to a build-up of urine. Urinary retention is noticeable through pain and infections. In the worst case, organ failure occurs.
Komplikationen können bei Nierenkrebs auch bei operativen Therapien auftreten. So besteht das Risiko, dass angrenzende Organe oder Körperstrukturen aufgrund des Eingriffs Schaden erleiden. Mitunter kommt dies im Darm vor. Dabei drohen lebensgefährliche Auswirkungen wie eine Peritonitis (Bauchfellentzündung). Werden Gefäße in Mitleidenschaft gezogen, kann dies Blutungen, Nachblutungen oder Hämatome (Blutergüsse) auslösen. Werden Nerven verletzt, sind wiederum Taubheitsgefühle oder Lähmungen möglich.
Wann sollte man zum Arzt gehen?
Kidney cancer is a serious disease that, if left untreated, first severely damages the kidneys, then spreads to other organs and is fatal. The sooner the patient who suspects kidney cancer contacts a doctor, the faster the diagnosis can be confirmed and treatment appropriate to the severity of the disease can be initiated. As with all types of cancer, the prognosis for kidney cancer is best the earlier it is detected. In the early stages of the disease, a cure is still possible if the diagnosis is made in time. Late stages, on the other hand, are more difficult to treat and there is also a risk that the kidney cancer has already spread and other types of tumors must therefore also be treated.
The difficulty with kidney cancer, as with many tumors, is that symptoms often only appear in the advanced stages of the disease and the first signs are not recognized as evidence of kidney cancer, if any occur at all. One of the first signs is small amounts of blood in the urine, which have no recognizable cause and are not necessarily associated with pain. Since it can take a long time before kidney cancer develops other characteristic symptoms such as pressure pain or hardening that can be felt, a doctor should be consulted as soon as possible for clarification if there is blood in the urine.
Treatment & Therapy
If kidney cancer is diagnosed, surgery is performed. The diseased kidney is often removed during surgery. This is the only way to be sure that no tumors remain.
Since the human body has two kidneys, the healthy kidney takes over the work of the excised kidney. If the tumor has already spread to other organs, radiation therapy is then recommended. This therapy destroys any metastases in the body and thus stops the cancer from continuing to grow.
Furthermore, the typical bone pain can be alleviated by radiotherapy as part of kidney cancer treatment. There is also the option of immunotherapy with a protein that regulates cell growth. This activates the immune system to defend itself against the tumors in the body. However, the effectiveness of this immunotherapy in kidney cancer is questionable, so that further clinical studies are necessary.
Chemotherapy is not used. The reason for this lies in the lack of effect of the drugs used in chemotherapy for kidney cancer.
Outlook & Forecast
The prognosis for kidney cancer depends on the severity of the cancer. If the tumor is confined to the kidney, around 70 percent of patients survive for five or more years. The chances of healing are even better for small tumors. Recovery is possible in 90 percent of cases. If regular cancer screening is used, tumors can be detected and treated at an early stage. Older patients over 40 in particular should make use of the annual routine check-ups. In general, kidney cancer can be treated well in its early stages.
Stage III or IV kidney cancer offers a poor prognosis. In the third stage, the 5-year survival rate is only 50 percent. If metastases have already formed in a lymph node, the prognosis is even worse. In stage IV, the probability of recovery is five to ten percent. The likelihood of a relapse also increases with the stage. The specialist doctor responsible makes the prognosis, taking into account the severity of the disease and the willingness of the patient to have aggressive therapeutic measures carried out. Social and financial factors also play a role.
The quality of life is not necessarily reduced in kidney cancer. Painkillers and comprehensive concomitant treatment are aimed at improving the patient’s well-being.
There are no specific preventive measures for kidney cancer . However, a healthy lifestyle and careful observation of certain body signals offer protection against kidney cancer. For example, high-fat food and smoking should be avoided. Painkillers should only be taken in exceptional situations. In the event of inexplicable back pain or bloody urine, it is advisable to consult a doctor at an early stage in order to clarify possible kidney cancer.
Doctor and patient usually talk about aftercare before the end of the initial therapy. The location and rhythm of the examinations are determined. In principle, the meetings take place at least quarterly in the first year. Then the distance widens. After years of freedom from symptoms, an annual check is sufficient.
An important topic of aftercare is the integration into everyday life. A rehabilitation measure, in which specialists from different disciplines are available, facilitates the way back to the original life. Patients can also be given medication there, for example, in order to live pain-free.
During follow-up care, doctors check whether the kidney cancer has come back. This is not an unlikely consequence. By diagnosing it early, doctors promise the best treatment options. A follow-up examination consists of a discussion about existing complaints. A physical examination follows.
The doctor also arranges imaging procedures as well as urine and blood analyses. This form of aftercare is extended if further secondary diseases have arisen as a result of an intervention. Constantly elevated blood pressure can be lowered with medication, for example. If mental stress arises from kidney cancer, psychotherapy, for example, can offer support.
You can do that yourself
In most cases, patients who receive a cancer diagnosis have to process the initial shock of the disease. Often they cannot think clearly in the first few days after the diagnosis of the disease. It is important to have an open and honest exchange with the doctor treating you. Questions should be noted and discussed at the next doctor’s visit. It is advisable to follow the therapy and treatment instructions. Physical exertion should be avoided so that no further overload occurs.
Cancer patients can try a special diet. It promotes healthy food intake and is based on findings from cancer research. Mental techniques also help to experience cognitive relief. An inner balance can be created and stress reduced through meditation, yoga or autogenic training.
The exchange with other sufferers via self-help groups or in Internet forums can bring helpful tips and information on how to deal with the disease. Communicating about existing fears, concerns or consequences of kidney cancer can be important for psychological balance. Discussions with trusted persons are recommended.
The supply of pollutants and toxins is to be omitted. The consumption of alcohol, nicotine or drugs has a negative effect on general health and also weakens the immune system. Good sleep hygiene, sufficient exercise and oxygen, on the other hand, support the immune system.