According to statistics released by the American Cancer Association, kidney, or renal, cancer accounts for three percent of all adult cancers in the United States. Each year, there are thirty two thousand new cases diagnosed, and twelve thousand deaths. While there are treatment options available, it depends on the type and number of kidney tumors, and the stage the disease is in.
Kidney tumors are a malignant growth in the kidney that usually occurs over a period of a time. The average growth rate for a kidney tumor is a half inch per year, and they can become quite large if they are not detected. Each tumor has its own characteristics and it is important to know what tumor the patient has so that the proper treatment can be administered.
Kidney tumors are commonly referred to as Renal Cell Carcinoma or RCC. While this is a type of cancer itself, there are subtypes of RCC as well. RCC is the most common type of kidney cancer, as nine out of ten people are diagnosed with it. Clear Cell RCC is the most common form of RCC and eight out of ten people are diagnosed with this type. The second most common is Papillary RCC, and it affects ten to fifteen percent of those who are diagnosed with cancer of the kidney. Five percent of all RCC's are diagnosed as Chromophobe RCC, which is a more rare type. There are other types of cancerous kidney tumors as well, one of which is known as Wilms Tumor. This type accounts for five percent of those who are diagnosed and is almost always discovered in children while rare for adults.
RCC is usually identified as a single tumor which is sometimes found in more than one spot of the kidney. Occasionally it will affect the second kidney as well. The cancer cells of Clear Cell RCC are pale or clear, while Papillary RCC will form projections in some of the tumor that look like fingers and are called pappillae. The cells of the tumor associated with Chromophobe RCC will be pale, similar to the cells of Clear Cell RCC, but are larger. Wilms Tumors are generally located in only one of the child's kidneys, but can affect both. A child is usually diagnosed by the age of three.
There are many symptoms associated with kidney tumors, and while many of the following can indicate a severe medical problem, they are also indicative of less severe conditions. They include a mass or a lump in the abdomen, urine in the blood, which may not be noticed, a constant feeling of being weak or tired, swelling of the legs or ankles due to the kidney's inability to excrete urine and waste product, and fever, which indicates an infection.
Once diagnosed with a kidney tumor, the doctor will then determine which stage the cancer is in. This will help him decide what route to take with treatment and enable him to give a more accurate prognosis. Kidney tumors are generally categorized into one of four stages. The higher the stage, the more advanced the cancer. In stage one, the tumor is less than one inch, has remained within the kidney, and has not reached the lymph nodes. In stage two, the tumor is larger than one inch, has remained in the kidney, and has not reached the lymph nodes. In stage three, the tumor can be of any size, has entered the lymph nodes and andrenal glands, as well as the renal vein. Stage four is a mixed group of stages and can include tumors of all sizes that have left the kidney and entered not only the lymph nodes, but also neighboring organs and distant organs as well.
Treatment will vary according to each person and their personal situation. If a person is healthy enough and can undergo a surgery safely, the doctor will take that route first. However, it also depends on the stage of the cancer. If a person is diagnosed in the more advanced stages, the doctor may advise the family that comfort care would be the best option rather than put the patient through rigorous treatment that will be for nought in the end. Aside from surgery, some of the most common forms of cancer treatment include chemotherapy to destroy cancer cells, radiation therapy to destroy cancer cells and shrink tumors, and hormone therapy to help prevent cancer cell growth. In most cases, two or more of these methods wil be used in combination to provide the patient with the best possible prognosis.
Each patient is different, as is their diagnosis, their treatment plan, and the way their body will respond to the treatment plan. Therefore, it can be difficult for a doctor to be completely accurate when telling a patient how long they may have to live once they have been diagnosed with kidney cancer. Sadly, many RCC's are not diagnosed until they are in the advanced stages, making it nearly impossible for the patient to survive longer than two or three months. However, when the cancer is detected in the early stage and has not yet spread, the five year survival rate is eighty-five percent. In some cases, it is even curable. In cases where the cancer has spread to the renal vein, the five year survival rate drops to between thirty-five and sixty percent. And if the cancer has spread to a distant site, the survival rate drops to ten percent.