Kidney cancer is a type of cancer that originally forms in the cells of your kidneys, which are the organs located in the backside of your abdomen on each side of your spine. The American Cancer Society estimates that over 61,000 new cases of kidney cancer will be diagnosed in 2015, leading to more than 14,000 deaths for the year. The earlier your cancer is found and diagnosed, the more likely your treatment will be successful.
If you are experiencing any signs and symptoms of kidney cancer, such as blood in your urine, back pain, weight loss, fever, or fatigue, you should make an appointment with your doctor as soon as possible. If your doctor suspects that you might have kidney cancer, he or she will likely order some tests and procedures to reach a definitive diagnosis. These include:
- Blood and urine tests: Testing your urine and blood can help give your doctor a better idea of what might be causing your symptoms.
- Imaging tests: Ultrasounds, computerized tomography (CT) scans, and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) tests are all good ways for your doctor to be able to see any tumors or abnormalities that might be present in your kidneys.
- Biopsy: Sometimes, your doctor might recommend a biopsy procedure, which involves removing a small sample of kidney tissue from a suspicious area to be examined and tested in a lab for signs of cancer.
Depending on your type and stage of kidney cancer, as well as your personal preferences and overall health, you and your doctor will be able to determine a treatment plan that works best for you. The most common avenues of treatment for kidney cancer include:
- Nephrectomy: Surgery is usually the first step in most kidney cancer treatment plans. This procedure involves removing the infected kidney as well as a border of healthy tissue, the adrenal gland, and the adjacent lymph nodes.
- Nephron-sparing surgery: This procedure is also called a partial nephrectomy and rather than removing the entire kidney, it involves removing the tumor and a small margin of healthy tissue surrounding it. This is a common treatment for small kidney cancers or if you only have one kidney.
- Cryoablation: If surgery is not possible, then you may need to look at other treatment options, such as cryoablation. This procedure involves inserting a needle into your kidney and using gas to cool down and freeze the cancer cells in the kidney.
- Radiofrequency ablation: This procedure uses an opposite method for killing cancer cells by running an electrical current through the needle in your kidney to heat up the cancer cells and burn them.
If you have recurrent or advanced kidney cancer, you may need a different sort of treatment plan that is more focused on controlling symptoms rather than curing the condition. This could include surgically removing as much of the kidney tumor as possible, as well as removing any cancer that has spread to other parts of your body. Treatment for this type of kidney cancer could also include therapies such as biological therapy, targeted therapy, and radiation therapy.