Renal cancer encompasses a group of diseases. There are different types of kidney cancer, but renal cell carcinoma is the most common type. Like most cancers, kidney cancer can also be cured effectively if it is detected in the early stages. This disease mostly affects people between the ages of 50 and 70 years. It can either begin as a single tumor or several tumors in one of the kidneys, or tumors in both kidneys.
The exact cause of kidney cancer is unknown, but there are several risk factors associated with the disease. Men who smoke or are obese are at a higher risk of developing the disease, along with those exposed to certain chemicals. People with high blood pressure are also likely to develop renal cancer.
Types of renal cancer
There are different types of renal cancer:
- Renal cell carcinoma: This type accounts for nearly 9 out of 10 cases of kidney cancer.
- Transitional cell carcinoma: Around 7% of kidney cancers are transitional cell carcinomas. The cells involved in bladder cancer are known to cause this type of kidney cancer.
- Wilm’s tumor: This is a type of kidney cancer that develops during childhood.
- Renal sarcoma: This is a rare type that develops in the connective tissue of the kidney.
Treatment options for renal cancer
Renal cancer occurs when malignant cells develop in the kidney tubules. The treatment options for those diagnosed with kidney cancer vary based on the stage of the disease. Standard treatment for renal cancer consists of 5 methods:
- Surgery: Surgical removal of the entire kidney or only the affected parts is one standard type of treatment. The surgical options available are partial nephrectomy, simple nephrectomy, and radical nephrectomy. A person can live with a part of one working kidney, but if both kidneys are affected, they may need dialysis or a kidney transplant.
- Arterial embolization: An interventional radiologist, using a catherer, delivers small particles to block the blood supply to a part of the body to shrink the size of the tumor. This procedure is recommended when surgical removal of the cancer is not possible.
- Chemotherapy: Once cancer has been removed, patients are given chemotherapy or radiation to kill any remnant cancer cells. Therapy given after surgery in order to prevent recurrence of cancer is called adjuvant therapy.
- Radiation therapy: Radiation therapy is of two types: external radiation and internal radiation. The method followed depends on the type and stage of cancer.
- Immunotherapy: This method uses the patient’s immune system to fight against cancer, and substances that boost the immune system are introduced into the body. An example of immunotherapy is immune checkpoint inhibitor therapy.
There are several risk factors associated with renal cancer. Certain medications can also cause kidney cancer if utilized when not needed. Early detection of the symptoms and prompt diagnosis helps in treating kidney cancer. Blood and imaging tests are performed to confirm a diagnosis of the disease, and when detected in the early stages, a complete cure of the cancer is possible.