11. PTC: Cancer Types: Kidney

11. PTC: Cancer Types: Kidney

What is kidney cancer?


Kidney cancer is the out-of-control growth of kidney cells, often forming a growth, called a tumor. The most common type of kidney cancer is renal cell carcinoma, which occurs in about 9 out of 10 cases of people who have kidney cancer. This cancer forms in the lining of the renal tubules, which do things like clean blood and make urine. Kidney cancer can spread to other parts of the body, known as metastasis. However, the tumor often stays in the kidney and if it stays small, a doctor can remove just the tumor, rather than the whole kidney. Other forms of kidney cancer include transitional cell carcinomas, Wilms tumors, and renal sarcomas.

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How does kidney cancer present?

img kidney cancer

What are some risk factors for kidney cancer?

A risk factor is anything that increases your chance of getting a disease such as cancer. Different cancers have different risk factors. Some risk factors, like smoking, can be changed. Others, like your age or family history, can’t be changed. But having a risk factor, or even several risk factors does not mean that you will get the disease. And some people who get the disease may have few or no known risk factors. Even if a person with kidney cancer has a risk factor, it is often very hard to know how much that risk factor contributed to cancer. Scientists have found several risk factors that could make you more likely to develop kidney cancer.

  • Smoking
  • Obesity
  • Family History
  • Gender: RCC (renal cell cancer) is twice as common in men than in women
  • Race: African Americans and American Indians/Alaska Natives have slightly higher rates of RCC than do Caucasians
  • High blood pressure
  • Genetic & Hereditary Risk Factors: Those with von Hippel-Lindau disease, Birt-Hogg-Dube syndrome, tuberous sclerosis complex, or hereditary papillary renal cell carcinoma have an increased risk of kidney cancer
  • Chemical Exposure: Workplace exposures to certain substances (e.g. cadmium-a type of metal, some herbicides and organic solvents, specifically trichloroethylene)

What symptoms should patients be on the lookout for?

Early kidney cancer is hard to diagnose because it does not cause pain or show signs during the early stages. Because early detection is hard, it is usually caught in the later stages instead of after it has spread. Symptoms usually show when the tumor grows into other nearby organs. Some of these symptoms are:
  • fatigue,
  • loss of appetite,
  • pain or pressure in the side or back,
  • continuous fever and/or
  • high blood pressure
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Are there any visual signs?

Visual signs often do not appear in the early stages of kidney cancer until cancer spreads. Some visual signs may include:

  • blood in urine,
  • an unexplained mass in the side or back,
  • ankle or leg swelling,
  • weight loss not caused by dieting, and/or
  • clustered and enlarged veins.
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