Mercy Robotic Surgery
Kidney cancer is when cancerous cells grow and create an abnormal growth, or tumor, within the kidney organ. The most common kidney cancer is called renal cell carcinoma; when detected early enough kidney cancer is curable.
Risk Factors and Symptoms
In addition to genetic (family-inherited) risk for kidney cancer or other tumor-producing diseases, the following risk factors may increase your risk for the disease:
- high blood pressure
- chronic kidney failure
Unfortunately kidney cancer is often asymptomatic, meaning that there are no obvious symptoms. You should consult your doctor if you develop any of the following conditions:
- blood in your urine in your blood
- lump in your abdomen
- unexplained weight loss
- loss of appetite
- pain in your side
If your doctor suspects you may have kidney cancer s/he may order:
- urine lab – you will provide a urine sample and a lab tech will check for the presence of blood or any other abnormalities
- blood lab work – a trained phlebotomist will insert a needle into a vein and take one or more small vials of blood, which will be sent to a lab to test for any abnormalities or elevated level of creatinine which can indicate that your kidneys aren’t functioning well
- ultrasound – during a painless ultrasound exam your doctor or trained technician will gently press a small wand over your kidney area to send sound waves into your body. Those sound waves create a picture of your kidneys and surrounding area which is projected onto a computer screen. Your doctor can use the images to check for the presence of a tumor.
- CT (computed tomography) scan – during this procedure a radiology technologist programs a large circular-shaped scanner so that it moves painlessly over your body as you lie on an exam table. You will need to remain very still and you may hear loud buzzing noises or “clicks” as the scanner sends x-rays through the area of your body that your doctor wants to study. If your doctor orders a contrast study a nurse will insert a small IV in your arm to deliver a harmless dye to your kidneys. The contrast dye will help any masses in your pelvic area be easier to visualize. The CT images are compiled on a computer which your doctor can then review. The exam should only take 15-30 minutes. Following the exam the IV will be removed and you can resume your normal activities. If you had a contrast IV you should drink a lot of fluid to help flush it out of your system.
- MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) scan – during this procedure you will be slowly and painlessly moved through a machine that uses a magnetic field and radio waves to send digital images of your kidneys and surrounding area to a computer monitor. You may need to fast for several hours before the test and will need to let the radiologist know if you have an intrauterine device (IUD), have medical allergies, have a fear of confined spaces (if you are not using an open MRI device), if you wear medicine patches, have metal implants or could be pregnant. You will wear a hospital gown for the procedure and may hear loud “tapping” noises. You will be asked to hold your breath for a few moments while the radiologist captures specific images. The test may take only 15-30 minutes but the entire appointment may take up to an hour. There are normally no side effects and you can resume your normal daily activities after the appointment.
If test results indicate cancer your doctor may recommend one or more of the following treatments depending on your age and health, the size of the tumor, and whether it has spread to other organs or tissue:
- surgery - your urologist and oncologist may recommend a radical nephrectomy where your entire kidney and surrounding tissue and adrenal gland is removed or a partial nephrectomy where only the portion of your kidney containing the tumor is removed.
- targeted therapy – your oncologist may recommend that you take an oral medication to destroy any cancer cells in your kidney and any other surrounding organs or tissue.
- biological therapy - a liquid solution containing weakened bacteria is intravenously delivered to help your body’s immune system fight the cancerous cells in your kidney(s) and any surrounding organs or tissue.