What is kidney cancer? — Kidney cancer happens when normal cells in the kidney change into abnormal cells and grow out of control (figure 1). People have 2 kidneys, 1 on each side of the mid-back. The kidneys' job is to filter the blood and remove waste and excess salt and water. Urine is made up of these ingredients.
What are the symptoms of kidney cancer? — Smaller kidney tumors do not always cause symptoms. But larger tumors and tumors that have spread outside the kidney can cause symptoms, such as:
Blood in the urine
Pain on either side of your lower back, in your side, or in your stomach
A lump in your belly or on the side of your back
Weight loss that you cannot explain
These symptoms can also be caused by conditions that are not cancer. But if you have these symptoms, you should be checked by a doctor or nurse.
Is there a test for kidney cancer? — Yes. If you have symptoms of kidney cancer, your doctor or nurse might order a test to check your kidneys. These tests can show tumors or abnormal growths. They create images of your kidneys in different ways, and they include:
CT scan (a type of X-ray)
MRI (uses magnets to create images)
Ultrasound (uses sound waves to create images)
Most people find out they have kidney cancer after having an imaging test for an unrelated symptom. For example, people sometimes have a CT scan because they have belly pain and then find out they have a tumor in a kidney.
What is kidney cancer staging? — Cancer staging is a way in which doctors find out how far a cancer has spread.
The right treatment for you will depend a lot on the stage of your cancer.
How is kidney cancer treated? — People with kidney cancer often have one or both of the following treatments:
Surgery – When cancer is confined to the kidney, it is usually treated with surgery with the goal of taking out the entire tumor. This can involve removing all or part of the affected kidney. The decision about how much to remove depends on different things, including how well the other kidney works and how big the tumor is. In some cases, surgery can help even if the cancer has already spread to other parts of the body.
Medical treatment – Different medicines can also be used to treat kidney cancer, particularly if it cannot be removed or if there is evidence it has spread. This might include:
•Targeted therapy – This includes medicines that block certain blood vessels or proteins in your body that help the cancer grow.
•Immunotherapy – This is the term doctors use for medicines that work with the body's infection-fighting system (the "immune system") to stop cancer growth.
What happens after treatment? — After treatment, you will be checked every so often to see if the cancer comes back. Follow up tests can include exams, lab tests, and X-ray tests.
What happens if the cancer comes back or spreads? — If the cancer comes back or spreads, you might have more surgery or medical treatment.
What else should I do? — It is important to follow all your doctor's instructions about visits and tests. It's also important to talk to your doctor about any side effects or problems you have during treatment.
Getting treated for kidney cancer involves making many choices, such as which type of surgery to have or which medicine to take.
Always let your doctors and nurses know how you feel about a treatment. Any time you are offered a treatment, ask:
What are the benefits of this treatment? Is it likely to help me live longer? Will it reduce or prevent symptoms?
What are the downsides to this treatment?
Are there other options besides this treatment?
What happens if I do not have this treatment?
All topics are updated as new evidence becomes available and our peer review process is complete.
This topic retrieved from UpToDate on: Mar 30, 2020.
Topic 15490 Version 9.0
Release: 28.2.2 - C28.105
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