Like most cancers, kidney cancer can spread to other parts of your body, sometimes quite rapidly. However, kidney cancer originates when cells begin replicating abnormally, producing a kidney tumor or other kidney function problems.
As with other cancers, the direct cause of kidney cancer can be unclear. However, some factors that can contribute to a patient being diagnosed with kidney cancer include:
- High blood pressure
- A family history of kidney disease
- You are a long-term user of a dialysis machine
- Genetic predisposition
- History of obesity
Dietary habits and substance use and abuse are also always potential risk factors when discussing any cancer type.
Kidney cancer has four different stages. Those with kidney cancer will experience fever, fatigue, blood in the urine, unexplained weight loss that can occur alarmingly quickly, and pain in one or both sides of the body that is persistent and exhausting.
The catch is that these symptoms may not start to occur until cancer progresses to later stages. Stage 3 and Stage 4 advanced kidney cancer are when these symptoms are the most obvious, although the pain in your side may occur at any time throughout cancer’s development.
Who Gets It
As with any cancer, kidney cancer can be unpredictable. However, there are cancer risk factors. Dialysis users, heavy smokers, those with high blood pressure and/or a family history of cancer, obese individuals, and anyone exposed to hazardous materials are all candidates for developing kidney cancer. However, like any cancer, kidney cancer doesn’t always have an obvious origin or cause.
How to Prevent
What Research Says
Research points to high survival rates if kidney cancer gets diagnosed when it’s still at stage 1 or 2. Once cancer spreads, it is much more difficult to treat. Still, many may live pain-free and active lives years after their diagnoses. If the tumors are slow to grow and the cancer is localized within the kidneys, it is possible to make a full recovery.
Dietary habits can significantly lower your risk of being diagnosed with kidney cancer. Eating plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables as well as whole rather than processed foods is great for your body regardless. But it also introduces fewer toxins into your bloodstream, which lowers the risk of developing abnormal cell activity. Not smoking and losing weight can also be beneficial.
High blood pressure is another contributing factor. Diet changes, exercise, and weight loss should help, but you may need medication to lower it.
Tests & Diagnosis
How is it given?
If you have a family history of cancers or have kidney issues already (like needing dialysis), it is best to get a cancer screening by a doctor regularly.
You will likely undergo an MRI or a CT scan to determine whether you have kidney cancer. If cancer is present, a kidney tumor or abnormal tissue growth will appear on the image results.
Another way that oncologists test for kidney cancer is by performing a biopsy, which is a collection of tissue so that they can test for the presence of cancer cells. A local anesthetic is applied before the procedure.
Kidney cancer is diagnosed through either or both imaging procedures and biopsy. You can take a blood or urine test, but these tests only show whether the kidneys are working normally. They do not reveal whether a kidney is infected with cancer cells.