Kidney Cancer is a type of cancer which initially originates within the kidneys. Kidneys are basically twin bean-shaped organs, each measuring about the size of a fist. These are located behind abdominal organs, with each kidney situated on either side of the spine. Renal cell carcinoma is the most common type of kidney cancer in adults. Other lesser types of kidney cancers can also occur. Younger children are most likely to develop another type of kidney cancer which is known as Wilms’ Tumor. Incidences of kidney cancer nowadays, however seems to be increasing. One main reason to this could be the fact that imaging techniques like CT scan (computerized tomography) are more often utilized for diagnosis. These tests can also often lead to accidental discoveries of more cases of kidney cancer.
Signs & Symptoms of Kidney Cancer
It is quite rare that kidney cancer cause any signs & symptoms in early stages. However, in later stages signs & symptoms of kidney cancer may include the following.
- Appearance of blood in urine which may be red, pink or cola colored
- Back pain just below ribs & which does not go away
- Weight loss
- Intermittent Fever
People must therefore seek an appointment with doctors in case they are having persistent signs & symptoms which are worrying in nature.
Causes of Kidney Cancer
It is however still not clear as to what really causes renal cell carcinoma. Nevertheless, doctors know that kidney cancer begins to occur when some kidney cells acquire mutations in DNA. These mutations compel the cells to rapidly grow & divide at a faster rate. These abnormal cells eventually accumulate to form tumors which can extend way beyond the kidneys. Some of these cells can break off & metastasize or spread across to several distant regions of the body.
Risk Factors Causing Kidney Cancer
Some factors which increase the risk of kidney cancer include the following.
- Smoking – Smokers are found to have greater risk of kidney cancer than the nonsmoking counterparts. However, this risk also decreases when people quit smoking.
- Old Age – Risk of kidney cancer also increases as people get older.
- Hypertension – High Blood Pressure – Risk of developing kidney cancer is also found to increase among people with high blood pressure.
- Obesity – Obese people are found to have higher risk of developing kidney cancer than are people who are considered of average weight.
- Certain Inherited Syndromes – Some people who are born with certain types of inherited syndromes are also found to have increased risk of developing kidney cancer. These inherited syndromes include tuberous sclerosis, Birt-Hogg-Dube syndrome, Hippel-Lindau disease & familial papillary renal cell carcinoma.
- Treatment of Kidney Failure – People receiving long-term dialysis as treatment for chronic kidney failure also have greater risk of developing kidney cancer.
Preparing for Initial Appointment Involving Kidney Cancer
People experiencing signs & symptoms which are worrying usually start by seeing a family doctor or general practitioner. In case the doctor suspects they may be having kidney cancer, these patients will usually be referred to urologist doctors who are specializing in treatment of urinary tract diseases & conditions or to an oncologist who treats cancer. Since these appointments with specialists can be brief & there is plenty of ground to be covered by the patient, it would be a sensible idea to prepare for this initial appointment. Some information which is designed to help kidney cancer patients get ready & as to what to expect from these specialist doctors are listed below.
What Kidney Cancer Patients Can Do
- Be Aware of Pre-Appointment Restrictions – While making the initial appointment, make sure to enquire if there is anything patients need to do in advance, like restricting the diet.
- Write Down Symptoms Experienced – This list should include all symptoms, including any which may seem unrelated to the purpose for which the patient has scheduled this appointment.
- Jot Down Key Personal Information – This would include any type of major stresses or recent changes in relationships & life.
- Make a List of Medications – This list must include all types of vitamins, supplements & medicines which the patient is currently taking.
- Consider Taking Along a Friend or Family Member – Quite often it can be difficult for the patient to remember all the information which was provided during initial consultation with the specialist. Someone accompanying the patient during this appointment will therefore help remember something which the patient has missed or forgotten.
- Create a List of Questions You Want to Ask the Doctor – Preparing a list of questions which the patient wants to ask the doctor will help them make the most of the time during initial appointment as this is invariably limited. It would therefore be sensible to list all questions from the most to the least important in case time runs out. Here is a list of some of the questions kidney cancer patients can ask doctors.
- Am I having kidney cancer?
- Has my kidney cancer spread beyond to other parts of my body?
- Do I require more tests concerning kidney cancer?
- What treatment options do I have for my kidney cancer?
- What potential side effects are involved with each treatment?
- Will my kidney cancer be completely cured?
- How will kidney cancer treatment affect my daily routine?
- Is there any one kidney cancer treatment which you feel is best for me?
- I am also having other health conditions. How best can I manage these together?
- What would you recommend if your friend or family member was in my situation?
- Should I seek another specialist opinion? What will it cost me?
- Can you provide brochures or other printed material with more information & which I can take home?
- Which websites you recommend I refer to?
In addition to the above questions kidney cancer patients should not hesitate to ask any number of other questions that come to their mind during the initial appointment with the doctor.
What Doctors Want to Know From Kidney Cancer Patients
Specialist doctors are most likely to ask a number of questions to kidney cancer patients. Being prepared to answer these questions will allow more patients to cover other points they want to address. Doctors may ask the following questions to patients during initial appointment for kidney cancer treatment.
- When was it that you first began to experience these symptoms?
- Have these symptoms been occasional or continuous?
- How severe are these symptoms?
- What is it, if anything, which seems to improve symptoms?
- What is it, if anything, which appears to worsen symptoms?
Tests & Diagnosis for Kidney Cancer
Tests & procedures which are commonly used to diagnose kidney cancer include the following.
- Blood & Urine Tests – Testing of blood & urine of kidney cancer suspects may provide clues about what exactly is causing signs & symptoms.
- Imaging Tests – Imaging tests like MRI (magnetic resonance imaging), CT scan (computer tomography) or ultrasound will allow doctors to see any abnormality or kidney tumors.
- Biopsy – Removing Sample of Kidney Tissue – Doctors may sometimes recommend a biopsy procedure in rare cases & which will involve a sample of cells from suspicious areas of the patient’s kidney. This sample is subsequently tested in a laboratory for any signs of cancer.
Staging of Kidney Cancer
Once doctors identify a kidney lesion which might be kidney cancer, the next step they take will be to determine the extent or staging of cancer. Tests involving staging for kidney cancer will include additional CT scans or any other imaging tests which doctors feel would be appropriate in individual cases. Doctors would then assign a number which is specifically called a stage to kidney cancer. Kidney cancer stages include the following.
- Stage I – Tumor can be up to 7 centimeters (2.75 inches) in diameter at this stage. However, it will also be confined to the kidney at this stage.
- Stage II – Stage II kidney cancer is invariably larger than stage I tumor, but is still however confined to the kidney.
- Stage III – Tumor extends beyond the kidney to the surrounding tissue at this stage & may also have spread to a single nearby lymph node as well.
- Stage IV – Cancer would have spread outside the kidney in Stage IV, either to multiple lymph nodes or to distant areas of the body like the lungs, liver or bones.
Treatment & Drugs for Kidney Cancer
The treatment team & the kidney cancer patient will sit together to discuss the treatment options which are available. However, the best approach will depend upon a number of factors including the type of kidney cancer & its spread, overall health of patients & their preferences of treatment.
Surgical Options for Kidney Cancer
Surgery is the standard choice of care for majority of kidney cancers. Surgical treatments which are commonly utilized in treatment of kidney cancers include the following.
- Nephrectomy – Removing Affected Kidney – Radical nephrectomy generally involves removal of the entire kidney along with a border of healthy tissue & adjacent lymph nodes. Adrenalin gland may also be removed during radical nephrectomy. Nephrectomy is normally performed as an open operation, which means that surgeons make one large incision in order to access the kidney. However, nephrectomy can also be performed laparoscopically by using several small incisions so as to insert a small video camera & various tiny surgical tools. Subsequently, surgeons will then watch a video monitor & operate in order to perform nephrectomy surgery. In some instances, surgery is also performed robotically. This means that surgeons utilize hand controls which convey to robots as to how to maneuver surgical tools for performing the operation.
- Nephron-Sparing Surgery – Removing Tumor from Kidney – Also known as partial nephrectomy, this surgical intervention involves removing the tumor along with a small margin of healthy tissue which is surrounding the tumor in place of removing the entire kidney. Nephron-sparing surgery is most often performed as an open procedure or sometimes performed laparoscopically with or without robotic assistance. This is a common surgical procedure as treatment for small kidney cancers & may also be an ideal option for patients having only one kidney. Whenever nephron-sparing surgery is possible, it is often preferred over the counterpart radical nephrectomy, since retaining as much kidney tissue as possible will eventually reduce risk of developing complications at a later stage when patients may suffer from kidney disease & require dialysis.
Type of surgery which is most suited to the kidney cancer patient’s condition will be recommended by doctors based upon the cancer & its stage & the patient’s overall health as well. However, all types of surgical interventions will carry risk of infection & bleeding among kidney cancer patients.
Other Treatments Wherever Surgery is Not Possible
Surgery may not be an option in some kidney cancer cases. Kidney cancer treatments may include the following in such situations.
- Cryoablation – Treatment to Freeze Cancer Cells – Cryoablation is a procedure which involves inserting a special needle through the patient’s skin into the kidney tumor by using X-ray guidance. Gas, which is inside the needle, is subsequently used to freeze or cool down cancerous cells. However, there is few long-term data available about safety & efficacy of cryoablation as treatment for kidney cancer. Moreover, this procedure is typically reserved for people who cannot undergo surgical procedures & for those having small kidney tumors.
- Radiofrequency Ablation – Treatment to Heat & Destroy Cancer Cells – Radiofrequnecy ablation is another nonsurgical treatment which involves inserting a special needle through the skin of the patient & into the kidney tumor with help of X-ray guidance. An electrical current is subsequently run through the needle to the cancer cells which cause these cells to heat up & burn-out. But then again, very few long-term data is available about the safety & efficacy of radiofrequency ablation procedure as treatment for kidney cancer. Nevertheless, radiofrequency ablation is an option available for kidney cancer patients who cannot undergo surgical interventions & for those patients having small kidney tumors.
Treatments for Recurrent & Advanced Kidney Cancers
Kidney cancer which recurs & kidney cancer which spreads to other regions of the body may not be curable, but can effectively be controlled with treatments. Treatment options in such cases may include the following.
- Surgical Intervention to Remove as Much of Kidney Tumor as Possible – Even if surgery is unable to remove all of the kidney cancer, in some cases it may however be helpful in removing as much of kidney cancer as possible. Moreover, surgery can also be employed to remove kidney cancer which has spread to another area of the patient’s body.
- Biological Therapy – Drugs Which Use Immune System to Fight Kidney Cancer – Biological therapy which is also known as immunotherapy uses the patient’s own body immune system to fight kidney cancer. Drugs in this category of treatment include aldesleukin (Proleukin) & interferon, which are synthetic versions of natural chemicals made by the body. Side effects associated with these drugs include loss of appetite, vomiting, nausea, fever & chills.
- Targeted Therapy – Treatments which Target Specific Aspects of Kidney Cancer – Targeted treatments are designed to effectively block specific abnormal signals which are present in kidney cancer cells which eventually allow them to proliferate. These targeted therapy drugs have shown considerable promise in treatment of kidney cancer which has spread to other regions of the body. Targeted drugs which block signals playing a role in growth of blood vessels providing nutrients to cancerous cells so as to enable them spread include sunitinib (Sutent), sorafenib (Nexavar), pazopanib (Votrient), bevacizumab (Avastin) & axitinib (Inlyta). Targeted drugs which block signals allowing cancerous cells to grow & survive include everolimus (Afinitor) & temsirolimus (Torisel). However, targeted therapy drugs can also cause side effects like rashes which can be severe, fatigue & diarrhea.
- Radiation Therapy – Utilizing high-powered energy beams like X-rays to destroy kidney cancer cells, radiation therapy is at times used to reduce or control symptoms of kidney cancer which has spread to other regions of the body, like to the bones.
Alternative Medicine for Kidney Cancer
No alternative or complimentary therapies have yet proved to successfully treat kidney cancer. However, alternative & complimentary medicine can help kidney cancer patients effectively cope with signs & symptoms which are commonly related to cancer & treatments of cancer in people like feelings of distress. People with kidney cancer usually experience distress following diagnosis & during treatment. Cancer patients who are distressed generally also feel sad or worried & may often find difficulty in sleeping, eating or concentrating on routine activities. Alternative & complimentary treatments which can help kidney cancer patients effectively cope with distress include the following.
- Music Therapy
- Art Therapy
- Dance or Movement Therapy
- Relaxation Exercises
Doctors often refer kidney cancer patients to professionals who can help them learn about & try some of these alternative treatments. Kidney cancer patients must therefore make it a point to let doctors know if they are experiencing distress.
Preventive Measures for Kidney Cancer
Taking the following steps will improve overall health & effectively reduce risk of developing kidney cancer.
- Quit Smoking – Time to quit if you are still smoking. There are several options available now for you to try & quit tobacco craving, including medications, nicotine replacement products & support programs. It will also be a good idea to talk to the doctor & discuss the options available.
- Maintaining Healthy Weight – Working towards maintaining a healthy weight is a sensible idea for people who are overweight or obese. People falling in this category must reduce the number of calories they consume everyday & also try to exercise during most days of the week. They should also enquire with doctors about other healthy strategies which can also help them lose weight.
- Control High Blood Pressure – It is sensible of people to ask doctors to check their blood pressure during appointments. In case blood pressure is high, they can discuss options which are available for lowering. Lifestyle measures which can keep blood pressure in check include diet changes, weight loss & exercise. Some people may also need medications so as to help them lower blood pressure. It would be a good idea to discuss all options with the doctor.
Coping & Support for Kidney Cancer
Every person copes with kidney cancer diagnosis in their own way. Once shock & fear which comes with diagnosis subsides, they will find ways to help & cope with daily challenges of enduring cancer treatment & recovery period. Some common coping strategies which can be helpful include the following.
- Learning Enough about Kidney Cancer so as to Feel Comfortable while Making Decisions Regarding Treatment Options – Kidney cancer patients must ask doctors regarding details of diagnosis as to what type of cancer are they having including the stage of cancer. This information can eventually prove helpful for them as they learn about treatment options which are available for them.
- Taking Effective Care for Kidney Cancer – Taking care of oneself during kidney cancer treatment is essential. Patients must therefore eat a healthy diet which is filled with fruits & vegetables & get proper exercise when they feel up to it. They should also get enough sleep so that when they wake up they feel rested each day.
- Gathering a Support Network – Friends & family of kidney cancer patients would naturally be concerned about their health. So, it would be practical to let them help patients when they offer to do so. Kidney cancer patients must let their friends & family take care of everyday tasks so that they themselves can focus on recovery. Preparing meals, running errands & providing transportation are various tasks where friends & family can be extremely helpful. Moreover, kidney cancer patients can talk about their feelings with close friends & family & which can eventually help them relieve accumulated stress & tension.
- Taking Time for Oneself – Kidney cancer patients must set aside time for themselves each day. They could spend this quality time by relaxing, reading or listening to music & which can effectively help relieve stress. It would also be a good idea for them to write down their feelings in a journal.
Affordable Treatments for Kidney Cancer in India
Over the past few decades India has emerged as a leading medical tourism destination providing excellent low-cost health care solutions to people from all around the world. Rising costs of healthcare in the developed nations has immensely contributed to this trend along with a robust healthcare infrastructure which India has been able to create in the last few years. Doctors, surgeons & hospital facilities in the country are professionally competent & at par with the best available elsewhere. IndianMedTrip is one of the most reputed & fastest growing healthcare tourism companies based in South Asia. They are also associated with top doctors & accredited hospitals in the region & therefore in a position to provide affordable medical procedures including treatments for kidney cancer to international patients. Packaged healthcare solutions provided by IndianMedTrip begin with the first telephonic conversation & move on to identifying the best doctor & ideal hospital facility for treatment. Trail of other seamless services offered by IndianMedTrip include assisting in obtaining medical visas for the patient & his/her accomplice, warm reception at the airport on arrival, convenient local travel, comfortable accommodation options which include budget & luxury hotels or serviced apartments, scheduling appointments with doctors & timely medical procedures without any waiting period, exotic recuperative holidays at reasonable costs, follow-up evaluation checks & a successful farewell while the patient & his/her accomplice are heading back home.