About the Condition
Renal cancer affects the kidneys, which are responsible for filtering out waste products from the blood and producing urine. This cancer, also known as kidney cancer, most frequently affects in people over 40 years of age, particularly men, with on average just over 10,100 cases diagnosed each year*. This cancer occurs when the genetic material of cells in the kidneys become damaged or changed, producing mutations that affect normal cell growth and division. The abnormal cells then replicate, causing cancer. If undetected, the cancer can spread beyond the kidney and move to other parts of the body.
The precise causes of renal cancer are unknown, but there are a number of associated risk factors. These include:
- Excessive alcohol consumption
- Exposure to certain chemicals
- Taking anti-hypertensive medications
- Undergoing dialysis
- Having a pre-existing inherited condition such as:
- tuberous sclerosis – a rare genetic condition that causes multiple non-cancerous (benign) tumours to grow in the body
- hereditary papillary kidney cancer – a rare form of cancer caused by faulty genes inherited from your parents; which causes small, slow-growing, cancerous tumours to develop in the kidneys, which can sometimes spread
- hereditary leiomyomatosis and renal cell carcinoma (HLRCC) – a rare, form of cancer, where cancerous tumours develop from smooth muscle tissue (leiomyomatas)
- Von Hippel-Lindau syndrome – a rare genetic syndrome that causes small non-cancerous tumours to develop inside the nervous system;
- Birt-Hogg-Dubé syndrome – an inherited syndrome that causes non-cancerous tumours to develop in the hair follicles of the skin; they usually occur on the face, neck and torso
The possible signs and symptoms for kidney cancer are similar to those for a number of other conditions. These include:
- Finding blood in the urine
- A lump on your stomach
- Unexplained weight loss
- A pain that doesn’t go away, particularly below your ribs
- Feeling tired all the time due to fewer red blood cells
If any of these symptoms apply to you, or if you have any concerns about similar symptoms, it is essential that you see your doctor at once, as your chances of recovery are much higher if your cancer is diagnosed early.
If you’re referred to CCL for diagnosis, your consultant or oncologist will advise you on which tests are relevant to your individual symptoms. The symptoms of renal cancer can also indicate a wide range of other kidney problems and disorders, so it is vital that the patient receives an accurate diagnosis. The tests used to identify renal cancer include:
- A physical examination and full medical history check
- A blood test, which will check for anaemia and assess the general function of your kidney
- Cystoscopy, which is a medical procedure to take a look inside the bladder
- Intravenous Urogram, which is a series of x-rays taken of the kidneys to assess their health
- A Computerised Tomography (CT) scan, which shows a 3D image of the area being looked at
- A Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) scan, which is a procedure that uses a magnet, radio waves, and a computer to make a series of detailed pictures of areas inside the body
- A biopsy, which involves taking a sample of the kidney to check for abnormalities
- Nuclear medicine bone scan
At CCL, patients with renal cancer are treated by a team of different specialists, called a Multi-Disciplinary Team, or MDT. This team works together to create a treatment plan to suit the individual needs of the patient. Treatments for kidney cancer usually depend on the size and spread of the cancer, and because of this procedure varies according to individual circumstances. The range of treatments available includes:
- Surgery to remove the cancerous tissue
- Radiotherapy, where high-energy rays are used to destroy the cancer cells
- Chemotherapy and Biotherapy can be effective in treating kidney cancer
- Immunotherapy, a treatment that actually uses your body’s own immune system to help fight cancer
- Cryotherapy which is the process of using extremely cold temperatures to treat tumours by killing abnormal cells
- Radiofrequency ablation use the heat made by radio waves to destroy cancer cells
Cancer doesn’t just leave a physical impact on an individual, but that it can have a huge emotional effect as well. Cancer and its treatment can be overwhelming, causing a wide variety of emotions, and it is important to remember that there is no right or wrong response. Reactions vary hugely from person to person, and most people find that it becomes easier to cope when they’re given additional support, so that’s what we do.
At CCL we provide support both physically and emotionally before, during and after treatment. We offer a wide range of services for patients, as well as their loved ones, designed to make a very difficult time as easy as possible, and to give our patients the best treatment and support possible.
Apart from side effects from treatment, some people may want to change their lifestyle after cancer. For example, a well-balanced diet, frequent exercise and reduce stress. Specialist dietitians are also available to help restore and maintain a healthy body weight during and after treatment.