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Kidney Cancer

Your kidneys are the two bean-shaped organs that filter your blood and eliminate waste to form urine. By filtering blood and eliminating waste, the kidneys are able to balance blood composition to keep your body functioning healthy.

When the kidney’s normal tissue is taken over and destroyed by an uncontrolled growth of abnormal cells, a tumor, which may be kidney cancer, develops. Kidney cancer is a tumor that originates in the kidney.

Although the cause of kidney cancer is not entirely clear, there is a genetic mutation that occurs in your DNA that tell kidney cells to grow and rapidly divide. What triggers this mutation is unknown, but the resulting cancer has the potential to spread throughout your body. When cancer spreads from its original site, it is referred to as metastasis. In adults, approximately 85% of cancers that originate in the kidneys are renal cell carcinoma.

Symptoms of Kidney Cancer

The early stages of kidney cancer do not usually show symptoms, but in the later stages patients may experience:

Risk Factors for Kidney Cancer

  • Smoking. If you quit, the risk decreases.
  • Age; cancer risk increases as you age.
  • Being of African-American racial background
  • High blood pressure
  • Obesity
  • Receiving long-term dialysis to treat chronic kidney failure
  • Having hereditary papillary renal cell carcinoma, an inherited or genetic condition that increases the risk of getting multiple types of kidney tumors or cancers. It also increases your risk of developing cancer in both kidneys.
  • Having Von Hippel-Lindau disease, an inherited disorder in which people are more likely to get different kinds of tumors or cysts (sacs of fluid) in different parts of the body, including kidney cancer in some cases.

Diagnosing Kidney Cancer

There are no blood or urine tests that can detect the presence of kidney cancer. When a tumor is suspected, it is usually found by chance when you are being evaluated for some other problem. The following procedures may evaluate whether cancer is present.

  • Blood and urine tests
  • Imaging tests, such as an ultrasound, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), or computerized tomography (CT scan). These studies allow the provider to better evaluate the kidney abnormality and see if cancer is suspected.
  • Biopsy. When it is not obvious that a tumor looks like kidney cancer, a small tissue sample may be taken from the suspicious area of your kidney. The sample is checked for cancer cells, but a diagnosis is not always guaranteed. In certain cases, a biopsy may not be possible due to the tumor’s location.

Treatment for Kidney Cancer

Treatment for kidney cancer varies depending on the kind of cancer you have, the stage of the kidney cancer (whether it has spread or not), your overall health, and your own opinions about treatment.

  • Surgery
  • Nephrectomy, a procedure that removes the affected kidney along with the adjacent lymph nodes and possibly the adrenal gland
  • Partial nephrectomy. If possible, rather than removing the entire kidney, only the tumor and part of the kidney surrounding it will be removed. This treatment is common for small tumors or cancers, and may be an option for those with only one kidney.

If surgery is not an option or if you have small kidney tumors, the following may be options:

  • Cryoablation, which freezes cancer cells through a release of gas by a special needle placed in the kidney tumor under X-ray guidance
  • Radiofrequency ablation, during which an electric current produces heat to burn and kill cancer cells. With this method, a special needle is inserted into the kidney tumor and an electric current runs through the needle to burn the cancerous cells.

For advanced or recurrent kidney cancer that may not be curable, treatments may include:

  • Surgery to remove as much as the cancer as possible or remove cancer that has spread (metastasized) to other parts of the body
  • Immunotherapy stimulates your immune system to fight cancer. It employs drugs that are artificial versions of chemicals made in your body, including interferon and aldesleukin.
  • Targeted therapy employs drugs to block the abnormal signals in the tumor that cause cancer cells to multiply. Some drugs block the signals that aid in the growth of blood vessels that supply nutrients needed for the cancer cells to grow and spread. Other drugs may help block the signals that allow kidney cancer cells to grow and survive.
  • Radiation therapy employs X-rays or energy beams to kill cancer cells. Radiation may be used to control or minimize the symptoms of cancer that has spread to other parts of your body, such as your lungs or bones.

Miami urologist Dr. Marvin Bondhus diagnoses and treats kidney cancer in our South Miami office. For a consultation, call (305) 661-9692 or request an appointment online.