Kidney Cancer

Kidney cancer usually occurs in people ages 50 to 70 years old, and its cause is unknown. Sometimes involving both kidneys, kidney cancer spreads easily — most often to the lungs and other organs. In fact, about one-third of patients diagnosed with kidney cancer have metastasized kidney cancer (kidney cancer that has spread to another part of the body). Fortunately, Norton Cancer Institute’s advanced treatment options and support services are providing hope for those battling kidney cancer.

Understanding Kidney Cancer

The most common type of kidney cancer in adults is renal cell carcinoma. This type of kidney cancer is made up of cancerous cells in the lining of very small tubes within the kidney. It is not clear what causes renal cell carcinoma, though it is more common in men than in women. In its early stages, kidney cancer rarely shows any signs or symptoms.

One of the best ways to prevent kidney cancer is to quit smoking. Smokers have a greater risk of kidney cancer than nonsmokers do, but the risk decreases after you quit. It is also important to follow your health care provider’s recommendations in the treatment of kidney disorders, especially those that may require dialysis.

Symptoms of Kidney Cancer

If you believe you are at high-risk for kidney cancer, you should consult your doctor. Symptoms of kidney cancer include:

  • Abdominal pain
  • Abnormal urine color (dark, rusty or brown)
  • Back pain
  • Blood in the urine
  • Emaciated, thin, malnourished appearance
  • Enlargement of one testicle
  • Flank pain
  • Swelling or enlargement of the abdomen
  • Unintentional weight loss of more than 5 percent of body weight
  • Constipation
  • Cold intolerance
  • Excessive hair growth in females
  • Paleness
  • Vision abnormalities

Diagnosing Kidney Cancer

If you or your physician suspects you may have kidney cancer, one or more of the following tests may be performed:

  • Complete blood count (CBC)
  • Intravenous pyelogram (IVP)
  • Kidney X-ray
  • Liver function tests
  • Renal arteriogram
  • Serum calcium
  • SGPT and alkaline phosphatase
  • Ultrasound of the abdomen and kidney
  • Urine cytology
  • Urine test

Sometimes both kidneys are involved. The cancer spreads easily, most often to the lungs and other organs. About one-third of patients have spreading (metastasis) at the time of diagnosis. The following tests may be performed to determine if the cancer has spread:

  • Abdominal CT scan
  • Abdominal MRI
  • Bone scan
  • Chest X-ray
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