Kidney cancer, the most common of which is renal cell carcinoma, originates in the kidneys, which are a critical part of the body’s "waste management" system. They gather water and waste from blood and produce urine that removes the waste from the body. Kidney cancer makes up about 2 percent of all cancers in the United States.
Causes and Symptoms
A variety of factors can increase the chances of developing kidney cancer. Some, like family history or a disease called Von Hippel-Lindau (VHL) syndrome, cannot be controlled, but a number of things that increase risk can be managed. For example, having high blood pressure, smoking and obesity all make the development of kidney cancer more likely.
Common symptoms that might be a warning for kidney cancer include a lump in the abdomen, abdominal pain and blood in the urine. Fatigue, fever and unexplained weight loss are other symptoms that can result from having kidney cancer. Of course, these symptoms can also be related to other disorders as well, so it’s important to see a doctor for screening and diagnosis.
Treatment of Kidney Cancer
The three most common treatments for kidney cancer are surgery, targeted therapy and biological therapy. When surgery is required, the procedure may involve removal of an entire kidney, or just part of the kidney, depending on how much the cancer has grown and spread. The surrounding lymph nodes may also need to be removed as part of the procedure.
Targeted therapy is used when the cancer has spread beyond the kidneys. This medication, which is injected into the bloodstream, can halt the growth and spread of cancer cells. Biological therapy is also an injected medication, but it has a slightly different purpose. This treatment is meant to boost the immune system and make it more efficient at fighting the growth of cancer cells.
SOURCES: U.S. National Cancer Institute; Kidney Cancer Association, U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention