As with all types of cancer, awareness is the key to diagnosing kidney cancer and undergoing treatment when it is most effective. Because March is Kidney Cancer Awareness Month, we’re shining the spotlight on this particular disease.
Kidney Cancer At A Glance
Also known as renal cancer, kidney cancer forms from malignant cells in tubules in the kidney. There are many types of kidney cancer, including renal cell carcinoma (the most common type), transitional cell carcinoma, sarcoma and lymphoma. There are also several different types of cancer cells that make up kidney tumors. Knowing which kind of cancer and types of cells helps determine the most effective type of treatment.
Some U.S. Statistics
The American Cancer Society has identified several key kidney cancer statistics:
- Approximately 63,990 people will be diagnosed with kidney cancer in 2017 (40,610 men and 23,389 women).
- The lifetime risk for developing the disease is approximately 1 in 63, or 1.6 percent. The risk is higher for men than for women.
- The average age at the time of diagnosis is 64 years old. Kidney cancer rarely develops in people younger than 45.
- The five-year survival rate is 74 percent; if the cancer has not metastasized, the rate increased to 93 percent.
- Advanced treatments and early detection contribute to a drop in the death rate of about one percent every year.
Common Symptoms Of Kidney Cancer
Though symptoms often don’t appear until kidney cancer is at a more advanced stage, there are a number of signs to watch for. Keep in mind that if you have one or more of these symptoms, it does not necessarily mean that you have cancer.
- Blood in urine
- Loss of appetite and/or unexplained weight loss
- Palpable lump and/or pain in your abdomen
- Fever that persists in the absence of an illness or infection
- High blood pressure
- Swelling in lower extremities
If the cancer has spread to other parts of the body, symptoms may also include:
- Shortness of breath
- Bone pain
- Cough that produces blood
Risk Factors For Kidney Cancer
Many of the risk factors for kidney cancer are the same across all types of cancer, including smoking, obesity, diet, high blood pressure, family history and exposure to certain chemicals. However, there are some risk factors specific to kidney cancer:
- Being male (men are twice as likely to develop kidney cancer as women)
- Being African-American (incidence is slightly higher than in caucasians)
- Being on pain medications long term
- Having advanced kidney disease or long-term dialysis
Many risk factors are beyond your control, which is why it’s so important to reduce or eliminate the ones you can control.
A Cancer Diagnosis – Now What?
If you do receive a cancer diagnosis, chances are you’ve already had some testing done such as urine and blood tests, ultrasound, CT scan and/or MRI. Your doctor will determine the best course of action given your individual circumstances. Typically, surgery is the first line of defense to remove tumors. Follow up treatment including chemotherapy and/or radiation is often prescribed. Dr. Perez at Sierra Nevada Cancer Center works closely with his patients and their healthcare providers to create a comprehensive treatment plan.