Curious About Renal Cell Carcinoma? You're Not Alone!

Cancer can strike anywhere in the body. The kidneys are no exception. Kidney cancer is a troubling condition which may not show signs earlier. Renal cell carcinoma is the most common form of kidney cancer.

Around 90% of cases of kidney cancer happen to be renal cell carcinoma. 

There’s a lot of information to take in when someone is diagnosed with cancer. There’s a wide variety of treatments. Even getting to the diagnosis stage can be enlightening considering the array of symptoms. Many people may not realize it, but diagnosing renal cell carcinoma is often done by accident. It’s discovered while looking for other problems within the body. These commonly asked questions and answers can help shed some light on the kidney cancer and renal cell carcinoma in particular. 

The 6 Important Questions

Q: Am I At Risk of Getting Renal Cell Carcinoma? 

A: This may be the first question most people may wonder about. In theory, anyone could be a target for renal cell carcinoma. The cause of this cancer isn’t known. Specific mutated cells in the kidney will begin to grow much faster than normal cells and crowd out the healthy kidney cells. However, there are risk factors which increase the chance that renal cell carcinoma could be in a person’s future. 

Q: What Are These Risk Factors? 

A: There are actually several risk factors that are common. The first is age. People are more likely to suffer from renal cell carcinoma as they get older. Obese people are also at greater risk. Medical conditions can cause issues. Hypertension in particular is a risk factor. People who are undergoing dialysis for chronic kidney failure have an elevated risk. Several inherited conditions like Birt-Hogg-Dube syndrome can increase the risk of renal cell carcinoma. 

Q: Which Symptoms Should I Look Out For? 

A: There are very few early symptoms of renal cell carcinoma. This is the main problem, as early stages are easier to treat. As the cancer grows and becomes more severe, the symptoms develop. It’s possible that urine will change color to pink, red or brown due to blood filtering through. People may feel pain in the back and side near the kidneys. Loss of appetite is common, as is unexplained weight loss. Some people may feel fatigued and/or an intermittent fever. 

Q: How Are Renal Cell Carcinoma Tumors Removed? 

A: Surgery is the most common way to treat renal cell carcinoma as long as it’s remainder in the kidney area. A nephrectomy is a surgery to remove an entire kidney, as well as surrounding tissues, lymph nodes and glands. Ideally other options can be used. A partial nephrectomy is known as a kidney sparing surgery. In this case, only part of the kidney that has the tumor is removed, along with a buffer of tissue in the surrounding area. There are also treatments for small tumors called cryoablation and radiofrequency ablation. These use cold gas and electrical current to freeze or burn the cancerous cells and remove them. 

Q: What Happens if the Cancer Spreads? 

A: Advanced cases can have the cancer spread to other parts of the body. In these cases, it’s important to start treatment early. Doctors will design a treatment specifically for each individual. Surgery as mentioned previously can be a part of it. But it also may include other cancer treatments like radiation therapy, targeted therapy, or biological drug therapy.  There are several risks and side effects associated with each of the potential treatments, so it’s crucial for a doctor to walk their patients through all the benefits and detriments. 

Q: Can I Do Anything to Prevent Renal Cell Carcinoma?

A: The best way to avoid getting renal cell carcinoma is to simply live a healthy lifestyle. Several of the risk factors boil down to being somewhat unhealthy. If you smoke, quitting is a must. There are programs to help people who want to quit. Avoiding obesity is also important. A healthy diet and physical activity can do wonders for overall health. The same can often be said for lowering blood pressure. Being fit and eating healthy can help there, as can medications if a doctor suggests they are needed.

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