What is kidney cancer?
Kidneys are an essential part of the body’s urinary system. Their job is to filter waste products from the blood and produce urine. Most people have two kidneys, and usually, only one kidney is affected. If it’s diagnosed early, it can often be cured.
The most common type of kidney cancer is renal cell carcinoma (RCC). It starts in cells in the small tubes of the kidneys. There are three main types of renal cell carcinoma. The most common one is clear cell. The others are:
Causes of kidney cancer
Doctors aren’t sure exactly what causes kidney cancer. However, some things can increase the risk including:
• Being very overweight or obese
• Having a close relative who has had kidney cancer
• Having had dialysis for kidney disease
• Having had radiation therapy for testicular cancer
• High blood pressure
• Inherited conditions such as Von Hippel-Lindau syndrome
• Previous medical conditions such as chronic kidney disease and sickle cell disease (SCD)
• Smoking (the more you smoke, the higher your risk)
Symptoms of kidney cancer
Some signs of kidney cancer are more obvious than others. These include:
A lump in the kidney area
Blood in the urine (haematuria) – the most common symptom of kidney cancer
There are also less obvious symptoms of kidney cancer such as:
Dull pain in the side of your lower back
Feeling very tired all the time
High blood pressure (hypertension)
High temperature and sweating
Leg and ankle swelling (oedema)
Sudden, unexplained weight loss
Swollen neck glands
Having these symptoms doesn’t mean you have kidney cancer, but it’s best to get them checked by a doctor. The sooner your cancer is detected, the better the chances of treating it successfully.
Tests and diagnosis
After discussing your symptoms, your doctor may examine your kidney area for any lumps. They may then refer you to a specialist for more tests, including:
- Biopsy to test a sample of kidney cells
- Scans including CT, MRI and ultrasound
- Cystoscopy – your doctor may pass a thin tube along your urethra. This will help them to identify any problems in your bladder
- Intravenous urogram (IVU) – this involves taking an X-ray of the urinary tract
- Urine test
Treatments we offer
Treatments for kidney cancer include surgery, targeted therapies and sometimes radiotherapy.
Radiotherapy kills cancer cells. It’s used in the early stages of cancer treatment or after it has started to spread. It can also be used to relieve pain and discomfort from cancer that has spread.
Meet our doctors
Everything we do is focused on designing better care for our patients. With a network of 12 specialist oncology treatment centres across the UK, we provide the most up-to-date treatments and technology as standard.
We attract and retain some of the most experienced doctors in the country, who all have a passion for improving patient outcomes and specialise in the treatment of different types of cancer.
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