The two most common types of kidney cancer – transitional cell carcinoma and renal cell carcinoma – affect kidney cells. Nonetheless, they have different patterns of development and outcomes. As a result, the treatment for these conditions varies.
Kidney cancer diagnosis
To diagnose renal cancer, the doctor may use the following methods:
- Blood and urine tests are the collection and analysis of a patient’s blood and urine samples. These tests may help the doctor to determine what causes symptoms.
- Imaging tests are procedures that produce images of the kidneys. Such visualization of the organ allows the doctor to see any abnormality present in the kidney. Imaging tests may include computerized tomography (CT) scans, ultrasound, and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI).
- The biopsy is the removal of a sample of kidney tissue from the area of concern. Then, this sample is analyzed in the lab. The specialist looks for the signs of cancer. Nonetheless, this procedure is not common. The doctor suggests performing it only in rare cases.
Kidney cancer staging
The stage refers to the extent of the growth. Therefore, when the doctor has diagnosed kidney cancer in the patient, it is crucial to determine its stage. To do so, the healthcare provider may suggest additional imaging tests. Overall there are four stages of kidney cancer. They are:
- Stage I is the earliest stage. At this time, the growth is up to 2 3/4 inches or 7 cm in diameter. Moreover, at this stage, the tumor doesn’t extend beyond the kidney.
- Stage II is more intense, but the growth is still located only within the kidney.
- Stage III is the stage at which the growth extends beyond the kidney. Now it can affect surrounding tissues and lymph nodes.
- Stage IV is the last stage. At this time, the tumor spreads to multiple lymph nodes. What’s more, it can extend to distant parts of the body such as the lungs, liver, and bones.
Kidney cancer treatment
There are several methods used for kidney cancer treatment. They include surgery, cryotherapy, arterial embolization, and radiofrequency ablation.
Usually, surgery is the first method that the doctor suggests for kidney cancer treatment. Although, even if the surgery removes the entire tumor, the healthcare provider may recommend additional procedures.
There are several types of surgery used to treat renal cancer:
- Radical nephrectomy is a procedure during which the surgeon removes the affected kidney, adrenal gland, and surrounding tissue. In addition, the doctor may remove lymph nodes in this area. This method is the most common type of surgery for kidney cancer treatment. Moreover, nowadays, the specialist can perform this procedure through a tiny incision with a laparoscope.
- Partial nephrectomy helps treat kidney cancer in a patient with a small tumor (less than 4 cm). In addition, the doctor may suggest this type of surgery if the use of radical nephrectomy can damage the other kidney. In this case, the surgeon removes the affected kidney and some of the surrounding tissues. A human can live even with a part of one kidney as long as it works properly. However, suppose the doctor removes both kidneys. In that case, the patient will need a special machine to filter the blood – dialysis. Notably, if only one kidney is affected, the doctor may suggest a kidney transplant instead of dialysis.
- Simple nephrectomy is the procedure when the surgeon removes only the affected kidney.
Other treatment methods
In situations when there is no possibility to remove kidney cancer using surgery, the doctor can suggest other ways of treatment. They may include:
- Radiofrequency ablation employs high-energy radio waves to heat the growth.
- Cryotherapy uses extreme cold to fight the tumor.
- Arterial embolization is an insertion of a substance into the blood flowing to the kidney. It blocks the blood supply of the tumor. The doctor may recommend performing this procedure to decrease the size of the growth before the surgery.
Kidney cancer prognosis
Kidney cancer prognosis depends on the extent of the tumor. When the growth is less than 4 cm in diameter, the five-year survival rate is 90-95%. In cases with a more significant tumor that still doesn’t extend beyond the kidney and doesn’t invade veins, this rate is 80-85%. However, the survival drops to 60% when cancer spreads beyond the kidney to the surrounding tissues. It further decreases to 5-15% if the tumor develops metastases in lymph nodes. Finally, the five-year survival rate is less than 5% in the case when kidney cancer metastasizes to other organs.
How to reduce the risk
Managing your lifestyle to improve the overall health condition may help to decrease the risk of kidney cancer development. Tips to consider are:
- Maintaining a healthy weight
- Stop smoking
- Control high blood pressure