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Kidney Cancer

Symptoms, risk factors and treatment of kidney cancer

In the past year, over 50,000 individuals in the US alone were diagnosed with kidney cancer. The disease affects people of all ages, including children. While that number seems high, the advancements made in the diagnosis and treatment of the disease means that more and more people are able to survive kidney cancer and live normal, healthy lives.

Kidney Cancer Symptoms

Symptoms of cancer in the kidney (or kidneys) include blood in the urine (giving the urine a reddish tinge), weight loss, fever, feeling fatigued and run-down, a persistent pain in the side and a lump or mass on the side of the abdomen.

While none of these symptoms are a sure indicator of kidney cancer (they're also associated with infections, cysts and other problems), you should report them to a doctor. He or she will conduct tests, including a physical examination, urine tests, blood tests and other tests and scans, to rule out kidney cancer.

Kidney Cancer Risk Factors

No one knows what causes cancer in the kidneys, but three risk factors for the disease include:

  • Smoking. Cigarette smokers have nearly twice the risk of kidney cancer as non-smokers.
  • Long-Term Dialysis. Perhaps because the kidneys are already malfunctioning, there is speculation of a correlation between long-term dialysis and kidney cancer.
  • Occupation. Exposure to toxins like asbestos, cadmium and those used in the iron and steel industry are believed to increase the risk of kidney cancer.

Additional risk factors that have been identified include high blood pressure, VHL syndrome (a condition that causes changes in the VHL gene) and gender, as significantly more males are diagnosed with kidney cancer than females.

Kidney Cancer Treatment

Kidney cancer can be treated in a number of ways, including radiation therapy, chemotherapy and biological therapy, or combinations of the three. Surgery to remove the kidney or parts of it, however, is the most common treatment for the condition. This type of surgery is called a nephrectomy, and is conducted in one of three ways, depending on the severity of the condition:

  • Radical Nephrectomy. The entire kidney, adrenal gland and some surround tissue is removed.
  • Simple Nephrectomy. Only the kidney is removed.
  • Partial Nephrectomy. Part of the kidney (where the tumor is located) is removed.
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