Kidney Cancer Symptoms and Risk Factors
Kidney Cancer Symptoms
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According to the American Cancer Society, an estimated 58,240 people in the United States will be diagnosed with kidney cancer (35,370 men and 22,870 women) and about 13,040 people will die from this disease. As with all cancers, early diagnosis of kidney cancer dramatically improves the chance for survival. Although the prognosis of kidney cancer is relatively poor for kidney cancer that is advanced (metastasized), promising new treatments are improving the outlook for patients. These statistics include adults and children and include renal cell carcinoma and transitional cell carcinoma of the renal pelvis. The majority of patients diagnosed with kidney cancer are over the age of 45 with the highest incidences between the ages of 55 and 84.
Signs and Symptoms of Kidney Cancer
What are signs or symptoms of kidney cancer?
Unfortunately, kidney cancer rarely causes visible signs or symptoms in its early stages. In the later stages, the most common sign of both renal cell and transitional cell cancers is blood in the urine (hematuria). Most of the time RCC is now found incidentally, during physical examinations for other problems, by imaging studies such as ultrasound, CAT scan or MRI. You may notice the blood when you urinate, or your doctor may detect blood from a urinalysis, a test that specifically checks the contents of your urine.
Other possible kidney cancer symptoms may include:
- Flank pain - Pain on one side of the body between the upper abdomen and the back.
- Abdominal Mass - a mass in the area of the kidneys discovered during an examination
- Anemia - a condition in which the number of red blood cells is below normal
- Fever - not due to cold or flu
- Unexplained weight loss, often rapid
- Fatigue and general feeling of poor health
See your physician right away if you notice blood in your urine.
In most cases, blood in the urine does not mean you have kidney cancer.Blood in the urine can be a sign of many conditions, including kidney stones, prostate problems, urinary tract infections or a non-cancerous cyst on the kidney. It is important that you determine the cause of it as soon as possible by discussing your symptoms and concerns with your doctor.
In addition to a medical history and physical exam, diagnostic tests include blood and urine studies; imaging tests including ultrasound and computerized tomography (CT) or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI); a cystoscopy to provide a view of the bladder, urethra and kidneys; and a biopsy.
If cancer is found, these tests also help to determine the cancer’s stage – whether it is confined to the kidney, has spread to surrounding tissue or a nearby lymph node, or has moved to distant parts of the body.
Incidence - Risk Factors
Studies have shown that certain lifestyle, environmental and heredity factors increase the risk of developing renal tumors. Although we do not know all the causes of kidney cancer, the following factors may increase the risk of developing this disease:
- Age. The risk of kidney cancer significantly increases with age, most kidney cancers occur in people over 45 years of age; with the highest incidences between the ages of 55 and 84.
- Gender. Men are twice as likely to develop kidney cancer as women.
- Race. African American men have a slightly higher risk than Caucasian men of developing renal cell carcinoma.
- Smoking. Smokers are at greater risk than nonsmokers. The risk increases the longer you smoke and decreases after you quit, although it takes years to reach the same risk level as someone who has never smoked.
- Obesity. Studies have found a strong link between excess weight (in both men and women) and renal cell carcinoma.
- High blood pressure (hypertension). Having high blood pressure increases the risk of developing renal cell carcinoma. The risk is even greater if you are also overweight.
- Dialysis. People who receive long-term dialysis for treatment of chronic renal failure are at greater risk of developing kidney cancer, possibly because renal failure depresses the immune system. People who have a kidney transplant and receive immunosuppressant drugs also are more likely to develop kidney cancer.
- Radiation. In some cases, exposure to radiation may increase your risk of kidney cancer.
- Heredity. Tuberous sclerosis (a disease characterized by several bumps on the skin, seizures, mental retardation, and cysts in the kidneys, liver and pancreas) and von Hippel-Lindau disease (a disease caused by a genetic mutation that leads to multiple tumors in the kidney, often at an early age) are both associated with an increased risk of developing kidney tumors. Most often in tuberous sclerosis the tumors are benign. However, in von Hippel-Lindau disease, the tumors are usually malignant.
Our Kidney Cancer Mission is You
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Unfortunately, cancer runs in Barbara Pytlewski’s family. Years ago, she and her brother learned they have Lynch syndrome, a hereditary condition associated with a high risk of developing colon cancer, as well as an increased likelihood of urinary tract, uterine and liver cancers.
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The Department of Urology at UCLA is one of the most progressive and comprehensive urology programs in the country. Our faculty members work side by side with research scientists for new cures and treatments for kidney cancer.
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