Kidney cancer is cancer that originates in the kidneys. Your kidneys are two bean-shaped organs, each about the size of your fist. They're located behind your abdominal organs, with one kidney on each side of your spine.
In adults, the most common type of kidney cancer is renal cell carcinoma. Other less common types of kidney cancer can occur. Transitional cell carcinoma, which affects the ureters, can also begin in the kidneys. Children are more likely to develop a kind of kidney cancer called Wilms' tumor.
The incidence of kidney cancer seems to be increasing, though it isn't clear why. Many kidney cancers are detected during procedures for other diseases or conditions. Imaging techniques such as computerized tomography (CT) are being used more often, which may lead to the discovery of more kidney cancers.
Kidney cancer is cancer that begins in the cells of your kidneys. ...
Kidney cancer rarely causes signs or symptoms in its early stages. In the later stages, kidney cancer signs and symptoms may include:
When to see a doctor
It's not clear what causes renal cell carcinoma. Doctors know that kidney cancer begins when some kidney cells acquire mutations in their DNA. The mutations tell the cells to grow and divide rapidly. The accumulating abnormal cells form a tumor that can extend beyond the kidney. Some cells can break off and spread (metastasize) to distant parts of the body.
Kidney cross section
All your blood flows through your kidneys, which are the key organs in the complex system that removes excess fluid and waste material from the blood. Blood that flows into your kidneys is diffused ...
Factors that can increase the risk of kidney cancer include:
Preparing for your appointment
Start by seeing your family doctor or a general practitioner if you have signs or symptoms that worry you. If your doctor suspects you may have kidney cancer, you may be referred to a doctor who specializes in urinary tract diseases and conditions (urologist) or to a doctor who treats cancer (oncologist).
Because appointments can be brief, and because there's often a lot of ground to cover, it's a good idea to be prepared for your appointment. Here's some information to help you get ready, and what to expect from your doctor.
What you can do
Your time with your doctor is limited, so preparing a list of questions will help you make the most of your time together. List your questions from most important to least important in case time runs out. For kidney cancer, some basic questions to ask your doctor include:
In addition to the questions that you've prepared, don't hesitate to ask questions at any time that you don't understand something.
Tests and diagnosis
Diagnosing kidney cancer
Kidney cancer staging
Then your doctor assigns a number, called a stage, to your cancer. Kidney cancer stages include:
Treatments and drugs
Together, you and your treatment team will discuss your kidney cancer treatment options. The best approach for you may depend on a number of factors, including your general health, the kind of kidney cancer you have, whether the cancer has spread and your preferences for treatment.
The type of surgery your doctor recommends will be based on your cancer and its stage, as well as your health. Surgery carries a risk of bleeding and infection.
Treatments when surgery isn't possible
Treatments for advanced and recurrent kidney cancer
No complementary and alternative therapies have been proved to successfully treat kidney cancer. But complementary and alternative medicine may help you cope with signs and symptoms related to cancer and cancer treatment, such as feelings of distress. People with kidney cancer can experience distress after diagnosis and during treatment. If you're distressed, you may feel sad or worried. You may find it difficult to sleep, eat or concentrate on your usual activities.
Complementary and alternative treatments that can help you cope with distress include:
Your doctor can refer you to professionals who can help you learn about and try these alternative treatments. Tell your doctor if you're experiencing distress.
Coping and support
Each person copes with a cancer diagnosis in his or her own way. Once the shock and fear that come with a diagnosis begin to subside, you'll find ways to help you cope with the daily challenges of cancer treatment and recovery. Coping strategies that can help include:
Taking steps to improve your health may help reduce your risk of kidney cancer. To reduce your risk, try to:
Last Updated: 2010-02-09
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