Cancer can arise in any part of the body. When it occurs in one or both kidneys, it’s called ‘nephrocarcinoma.’
WHAT IS NEPHROCARCINOMA?
The term nephrocarcinoma refers to any type of malignant tumor of the kidneys. Medical professionals usually call a nephrocarcinoma by its more specific name, such as ‘renal cell carcinoma,’ which indicates precisely where the cancer resides. It’s important to note not every tumor of the kidneys is cancerous. Benign (non-cancerous) tumors can develop in the kidneys, too.
WHAT CAUSES NEPHROCARCINOMA?
As with all cancers, a kidney tumor can occur when cells begin to multiply too quickly and old cells don’t die off when they should. These cells can bond together to form a mass of abnormal tissue called a tumor.
No one knows exactly why cancerous tumors occur in the kidneys. Researchers have identified a number of risk factors that affect your chances of developing a nephrocarcinoma.
RISK FACTORS FOR NEPHROCARCINOMA
These risk factors may influence your chance of getting a cancerous kidney tumor:
- Smoking. Studies indicate people who smoke have a much greater risk of developing kidney cancer than non-smokers.
- High blood pressure (hypertension).
- Family history of kidney cancer. While nephrocarcinoma isn’t thought to be genetic, people with a direct relative who had kidney cancer are slightly more likely to develop a kidney tumor.
- Von Hippel-Lindau (VHL) Syndrome. This very rare genetic disorder increases your risk of kidney cancer.
SYMPTOMS OF NEPHROCARCINOMA
The symptoms of kidney cancer mirror the symptoms of other, non-life-threatening conditions (such as a urinary tract infection), so you should not jump to a conclusion of nephrocarcinoma just because you may have one or more of these symptoms. Instead, you should seek medical attention for further evaluation.
- Blood in the urine, unusually dark urine or red/rust-colored urine
- Pain in your side, often below the ribcage, that doesn’t go away
- A lump or mass in your abdomen
- Unexplained weight loss
- Fever that doesn’t go away
- Feeling very fatigued all the time
TREATMENT OF NEPHROCARCINOMA
If you’re diagnosed with kidney cancer, your physician will choose a treatment specific to the type and stage of cancer you have. In general, kidney cancer is treated with one or more of these approaches:
- Surgery. Doctors may remove only the tumor, or they may remove the entire kidney. Since you have two kidneys, it is possible to live a normal life with only one kidney.
- Targeted therapy. You may know this treatment by a different name: chemotherapy. Today, medical professionals can customize chemotherapy to target specific cancer cell mechanisms to effectively shrink tumors.
- Biological therapy. This treatment works by supporting your immune system while fighting your kidney cancer. Biological treatments may be given intravenously or with an injection into the skin.
PREVENTING KIDNEY CANCER
While it’s impossible to prevent kidney cancer, you can take steps to reduce your risk. The most important step you can take is to quit smoking. Your healthcare professional can help you quit tobacco by using medications, nicotine patches or gum, and support groups.
If you have high blood pressure, be sure to take your medication exactly as directed. The kidneys play a vital role in regulating blood pressure. Unchecked hypertension can damage the kidneys in many ways.
Eat healthy, exercise and drink plenty of water. Your kidneys, in particular, benefit from good hydration. Water helps the kidneys do their job efficiently. And if you eat healthy and exercise regularly, you’ll avoid obesity, which is another risk factor for kidney cancer.
NEPHROCARCINOMA: MORE TREATABLE THAN EVER
Kidney cancer remains a grave diagnosis. However, advancements in early detection, surgical interventions and targeted chemotherapy have increased survival rates for nephrocarcinoma.