The kidneys are a pair of organs in the lower abdominal region, about the size of an average human fist and shaped like beans. It is one of the major organs of our body and is susceptible to cancer under certain conditions. The incidence of developing kidney cancer is increasing over time, but exact reasons are still unknown. Many types of kidney cancers are detected during medical procedures intended for other diseases, for instance, a computerized tomography or CT imaging, a test done for other conditions is capable of finding kidney cancer occurrences.
The main types of kidney cancer are:
- Renal Cell Cancer – This is the most common type that mostly affects adults. The different subtypes under this are clear cell, papillary, chromo phobic, oncocytic, collecting duct and sarcomatoid.
- Wilms’ Tumor or Nephroblastoma – Commonly affects children.
- Transitional Cell Cancer – A rarer type which affect the cells lining in the central area of the kidney.
In its earlier stages, the kidney cancer rarely has any apparent symptoms or signs. However, in later stages of kidney cancer, there are a number of symptoms indicating a grave damage of the organ, such as excretion of blood in the urine that tints the urine red, pink or cola-colored, weight loss, intermittent fever, fatigue and consistent back pain.
Kidneys are an important part of the urinary system, which is responsible for removing excess fluids, waste and electrolytes from blood in addition to numerous other functions. There are more than a million little filtering units in kidneys that are known as nephrons. The exact cause of kidney cancer and how the cells become cancerous is not yet clear.
The first step to a kidney cancer diagnosis is to investigate the complete medical history in conjunction with a physical exam, blood and urine tests. There are a number of other diagnostic techniques that can be used to confirm a diseased condition as kidney cancer, such as ultrasound, tissue samples or biopsy, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI scan) and computerized tomography (CT scan).
Depending on the type of kidney cancer, an overall health check up or a complete body scan is often necessary to ensure the spread of cancer to other parts of the body. There are several treatment options which can be followed. Some of these options include surgery in which the affected kidney is removed known as a nephrectomy, or surgery where only the tumor is removed is known as nephron-sparing surgery. There is also a technique of blocking the blood flow to the tumor known as embolization. Other methods are freezing the cancer cells, known as cry ablation, and taking drugs to fight the cancer are some of the possible biological treatments.