Overview

Kidney Cancer

by Don Johnson 395 under CC BY-ND

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The kidneys are the two bean shaped organs located behind the abdominal muscles on each side of the spine. Kidney cancer, occurs in these very organs, and is caused by abnormal cell growth. The most frequent form of this cancer occurs as whats called renal cell carcinoma (cancer cells that begin in the tubes of the kidney).

Children, however, are more likely to develop a cancer known as Wilm’s tumor (a form of cancer often caused by genetic conditions or birth defects). According to the American Cancer Society, over 50,000 people are diagnosed every year with some form of kidney cancer.

Signs and Symptoms

Unlike many other cancers, kidney cancer does not always have obvious or troublesome symptoms in the early stages. However, here are some of the common signs and symptoms to look for especially towards the later stages of the cancer:

  • Weight loss
  • Feelings of energy deprivation or fatigue
  • Persistent back pain below the ribs
  • Intermittent or recurrent fevers
  • Lumps in the kidney area
  • Loss of appetite

Diagnosis and Screening

To begin the diagnosis, a physician will often start by examining the patients medical history and than proceed with a physical exam. Blood and urine samples may also be taken. The doctor may also check for lumps or unusual protrusions in the kidney area. Lastly, a number of tests may be performed to check for cancerous cells:


  • Abdomen Sonography – This procedure utilizes sound waves, which are bounced off of the kidney to create an image known as a sonogram.
  • CT Scan – A CT scan requires the use of an x-ray machine and a computer that takes a series of pictures inside the body from various angles. This method is also known more formally as computerized tomography.
  • Magnetic Resource Imaging (MRI) – In this procedure a magnet linked with a computer creates detailed images of areas within the body.

Treatment

Treatment for kidney cancer will vary depending on the stage of cancer and the patients overall health, age, etc. The treatment plan will usually be setup to best accommodate the patient’s individual needs. Physicians may use one or more of the following techniques and/or procedures for treatment:

1. Surgery is the most commonly used treatment for kidney cancer. In most cases, physicians will remove the kidney(s) and the adrenal gland in a process known as a nephrectomy. In another variation, the lymph nodes in the area may also be removed (radical nephrectomy). If, however, the physician determines only part of the kidney needs to be removed a partial nephrectomy can be performed.

2. Radiation Therapy (Radiotherapy) – In radiation therapy, ionized radiation is used to treat the cancerous cells. Sometimes, this therapy is also used to treat the pain occurring that has spread to the bone as a result of kidney cancer. Radiation therapy does not require the patient to stay in the hospital for a recovery process.

3.Chemotherapy – In some cases, the physician may prescribe pharmaceutical drugs to kill the malignant (cancerous) cells. This process is known as chemotherapy. This technique has shown to be less effective at treating cancer than radiation and surgical procedures.

4. Biological Therapy – This form of therapy allows the body’s natural immune system to fight off the cancer on its own. Two examples of biological therapy include both interferon and Interleukin-2. Most people that receive this form of stay in the hospital so that the side effects can be continually monitored by the staff.

By Leo