The kidney is the body’s organ that produces and collects urine, and therefore begins the urinary tract. When abnormal cells form a mass within the kidney, it is termed kidney cancer. The most common type of kidney cancer is renal cell carcinoma. This type of cancer affects the urine producing part of the kidney.
Some of the causes for kidney cancer are common causes for most other types of cancer. Examples include smoking, age, obesity, high blood pressure, and family history or genetics. Two less common causes that are associated specifically with kidney cancer are long term hemodialysis and certain diseases, such as Von Hippel-Lindau disease.
A common indicator of any cancer in the urinary tract, including kidney cancer, is blood in the urine. Other symptoms specific to kidney cancer are pain in your side or lower back, a lump in the abdominal area, swelling in your legs and ankles, and later stages may create a low blood count, fatigue, and rapid weight loss.
Urinalysis, a blood test, and a discussion of your family and medical history are usually the first tests run to look for the presence of kidney cancer. If any of the above exams yield concerning results, your doctor may wish to perform more extensive testing, such as a CT scan, MRI, ultrasound, needle biopsy, or an x-ray and bone scan.
Fortunately, if found early, kidney cancer tends to respond well to treatment. Depending on the location and stage of the cancer cells your doctor may wish to use different treatments. The range of potential treatments includes surgery to remove the entire kidney or affected parts, cryosurgery to freeze and kill the cancer cells, radiofrequency ablation to kill the cells with heat energy, and targeted therapy, which is a mild form of chemotherapy to combat the growth.