Education & Diagnosis
Cancer of the kidneys, also referred to as renal cancer, is cancer that originates in the kidneys. The kidneys are the bean-shaped organs located on each side of the spine just behind the abdominal organs. Several types of cancer can develop in the kidneys. Renal cell carcinoma (RCC), the most common form, accounts for 85% of all cases. In renal cell carcinoma, cancerous cells develop in the lining of the kidney's tubules and grow into a mass called a tumor.
The immediate cause of kidney cancer is not yet clear. It is believed to occur due to a mutation in kidney cell DNA. These mutations instruct the cells to rapidly grow and divide. These cells accumulate and form tumors that can spread beyond the kidneys. Unfortunately, early stage kidney cancer rarely causes noticeable symptoms. With the increasing use of computerized tomography (CT scans), kidney cancer incidence seems to be on the rise. These tests are leading to the accidental discovery of kidney cancer. The most common symptoms associated with cancer on the kidney are blood in the urine, persistent back pain, fever, exhaustion/fatigue and unexplained weight loss. If you are experiencing any combination of these symptoms, please contact your doctor, or SMU to check for an underlying condition.
Testing & Treatment
There are no simple blood or urine tests that directly detect the presence of kidney tumors. When a kidney tumor is suspected, your doctor will order a CT Scan, which will reveal any type of mass that has developed. Additional imaging studies can be used to determine the cancer's stage and grade, in which will determine how the mass will be treated.
The early stages of kidney cancer can be treated with surgery. Smaller tumors may require only removing part of the kidney. Larger tumors may require removing the whole kidney. The removal of the affected kidney is called a nephrectomy. These procedures can be performed either with Laparoscopic or Robotic techniques (less invasive, less pain, and quicker recovery).
Partial Nephrectomy – this procedure removes only the tumor in the kidney along with some surrounding tissue in order to preserve as much normal kidney tissue as possible.
Radical Nephrectomy – this procedure involves the urologist removing the entire kidney, adrenal gland and surrounding tissue.
If the tumor is too large or if it has spread, as is the case in the later stages, surgery may not be an option. There are other kidney cancer treatment methods to consider such as an embolization, tumor ablation (freezing the tumor (cryotherapy) or using high energy waves (radiofrequency ablation)), chemotherapy, radiation, and other targeted therapies are also used for advanced kidney cancer. For additional resources on kidney cancer or to learn more about kidney cancer treatment options, please contact South Mississippi Urology to set up an appointment.