The kidneys are two bean-shaped organs. Each is about the size of a fist. You have one on either side of your spine in the middle to lower back. They have two main roles:
Most people are born with two kidneys, but you can survive with only one. You can also survive with no kidneys. People with no kidneys or kidneys that don’t work survive with the help of dialysis. Dialysis uses a special machine to filter the blood.
This is cancer that starts in the kidney. The most common type of kidney cancer is called renal cell carcinoma (RCC). The term renalis from the Latin word for kidney. About 90% of all kidney cancers are RCC. The other 10% are transitional cell carcinomas, Wilms tumors (in children), and other rare tumors.
Yes, there are many different types of RCC. A pathologist can name them under a microscope based on how they look. Here are some of the types:
More than 60,000 people in the United States are told they have kidney cancer each year. Men get kidney cancer more often than women. People who smoke are more likely to get kidney cancer than nonsmokers. Here are some other risk factors:
However, many people with kidney cancer have no known risk factors.
In the early stages, kidney cancer often causes no symptoms. As the cancer grows, symptoms may develop. The most common symptoms in people with kidney cancer include:
People with kidney cancer may have any combination of these symptoms.
There are various ways to find out if a person has kidney cancer. They include:
Patients with kidney cancer may receive one or any combination of the following treatments:
Health care providers are always finding new ways to treat kidney cancer. New treatments are tested in clinical trials. Before beginning treatment, it’s a good idea to ask your healthcare provider if there are any clinical trials that may be helpful to you.
Many people with cancer get a second opinion from another healthcare provider before deciding on treatment. Here are some of the many reasons to get a second opinion:
Here are ways to find someone to give a second opinion:
Ask the health care provider for the name of a specialist. Call the Cancer Information Service. The number is 800-4CANCER (800-422-6237). Callers can learn about centers and programs supported by the National Cancer Institute (NCI).
Call the Kidney Cancer Association. The number is 800-850-9132. Get the names of healthcare providers from a hospital, medical school or society, or cancer advocacy group. Ask people who have had kidney cancer for health care providers’ names.
After a kidney is removed, the remaining kidney takes over the work of both. Most people with only one kidney have no long term health problems. However, you should avoid anything that could harm the remaining kidney. It is very important to talk with your healthcare provider if you start taking new medicines or if you have a bladder infection or other problems that could affect your kidney. If the remaining kidney is damaged, you may need dialysis. With dialysis, a special machine does the kidneys’ job of filtering the blood.
Researchers are looking for ways to treat and cure kidney cancer in these ways:
Clinical trials are studies of new kinds of cancer treatments. Health care providers do clinical trials to learn how well new treatments work and what their side effects are. New treatments may then be compared to the current treatment to see if they work better or have fewer side effects. People who take part in a clinical trial may benefit from access to new treatments before the FDA approves them. The trials also help increase our understanding of cancer and help people who have cancer in the future.
Use these links to find out more about kidney cancer:
If all of these types and stages of kidney cancer are confusing to you, give the Palmer cancer experts at Mat-Su Valley Cancer Center a call at 907-707-1333. We are here to explain the variety of treatment options available to you and make sure all of your questions are answered. For your convenience, we also have an online contact form that you may use to ask your questions or make your first appointment. Your first phone consultation is free, so don’t hesitate to give us a call today. You owe it to yourself to explore all treatment options available to you.