The kidneys are two organs each nearly as big as a fist. They are often described as bean-shaped. Kidneys detoxify (clean) our blood, expel waste and maintain required electrolyte levels in our bodies. Tumors of the kidneys are known as renal cell carcinomas (RCC). At times tumors may develop inside the kidneys.
Causes Although there is no known cause for developing kidney cancer some factors can increase the likelihood of kidney cancer: smoking, poor diet, obesity, high blood pressure, kidney dialysis, exposure to chemicals and heredity factors
Symptoms may not be evident in early stages but could develop later: blood in the urine (hematuria), lower back pain, tiredness and diminishing appetite, loss of weight, persistent fever, anemia (low red blood cell count)
Classes of tumors are renal cell carcinomas (RCC), benign tumors which do not spread, Wilms tumors which occur mainly in children.
Treatment is preceded by diagnosis and staging, using the tumor node metastases (TNM) system. The T indicates the size of the main (primary) tumor and whether it has grown into nearby areas. The N indicates how much the tumor has spread to nearby lymph nodes. The M gives us information about metastasis, i.e. whether the cancer has spread (metastasized) to other parts of the body. It can spread to the lungs, bones, liver, brain and lymph nodes.
Treatment is based on the needs of the patient but is often especially planned to protect the functions of the kidney. Surgery is often advised and a biopsy may be recommended for urologists to determine the next course of action. Treatment choices often discussed include surveillance & monitoring (X rays, CT scans, ultrasounds), ablation (destruction of the tumor through extreme heat or cold – called radiofrequency ablation and cryoblation respectively), partial nephrectomy (removal of part of the affected or only the diseased kidney) or radical nephrectomy (removal of the whole kidney). Surgery can be performed vide laparoscopy.