The kidney is a bean shaped organ located at the rear of the abdominal cavity. The majority of people have 2 kidneys although variations in number, location and shape can occur. The kidneys excrete urine via tubes (ureters) which empty into the bladder.
Kidney cancer is when abnormal cells grow from the kidney. The most common type is called Renal cell carcinoma. The second most common is called Transitional cell carcinoma.
Symptoms Of Kidney Cancer
Kidney cancer in the early stages do not cause any symptoms. In fact most kidney cancers are detected incidentally when a scan is done for other reasons. In more advanced stages kidney cancers can cause:
Persistant pain in the abdomen
Blood in the urine
Mass in the abdomen
Risk Factors For Kidney Cancer
Smoking – can double the risk of cancer
Further imaging with a CT scan may be required to get a more accurate assessment of the kidney mass. If the mass is small in size (ie: less than 4cm) there is a 20% chance the mass may be benign (non-cancerous). In such cases a biopsy of the mass is done to get an accurate diagnosis.
Treatment depends on stage of the disease.
If the cancer has not spread then surgical removal of the kidney is the mainstay of treatment and is curative in most cases.Kidney cancer does not respond to chemotherapy or radiotherapy.
This refers to surgical removal of the entire kidney.
It can be done either
Laparoscopically (key hole). This is the most common method. It is associated with quicker recovery and less post-operative pain.
To find out more about Radical Nephrectomy
Open, in some cases where the cancer is very large or has other complexity then an open approach is needed.
This is where the cancer alone is removed leaving the remaining kidney tissue alone. This may not always be possible and feasibility depends on size and location of the tumour. This is also a more technically challenging operation compared to the radical nephrectomy. There is a greater risk of bleeding with partial nephrectomies.
If the kidney cancer has spread outside the kidney then a form of treatment called immunotherapy is used. The most commonly used group of drugs in immunotherapy is called Tyrosine Kinase Inhibitors (TKIs). Such treatment is overseen by a medical oncologist.