Renal Cell Carcinoma – Causes, Symptoms, Diagnosis, And Treatment
What is renal cell carcinoma?
Renal cell carcinoma (RCC) is a kidney cancer that starts in the lining of tubules in the kidney. This kidney cancer is also called hypernephroma, renal adenocarcinoma, or renal cancer. The tubules in the kidney filter and clean the blood. It is the most common type of kidney cancer in adults. Renal cell carcinoma occurs mostly in men 50 to 70 years old.
What causes renal cell carcinoma?
What causes renal cell carcinoma is not known to doctors and scientists. What is known is some factors can increase your risk for it.
The following are the risk factors for renal cell carcinoma:
- Dialysis treatment
- The family history of the disease
- High blood pressure
- Horseshoe kidney
- Long-term use of certain medicines, such as pain pills or water pills (diuretics)
- Polycystic kidney disease
- Von Hippel-Lindau disease (a hereditary disease that affects blood vessels in the brain, eyes, and other body parts)
What are the symptoms of renal cell carcinoma?
Renal cell carcinoma may not cause any symptoms in the early stages. The symptoms may show up as cancer grows.
The following are the symptoms of renal cell carcinoma:
- A lump in the abdomen
- Persistent flank pain
- Blood in the urine
- Abdominal pain and swelling
- Back pain
- Swelling of the veins around a testicle (varicocele)
- Unexplained weight loss
- Loss of appetite
How is renal cell carcinoma diagnosed?
The doctor will perform a physical exam and review the symptoms. The exam may reveal a lump or swelling of the abdomen or a varicocele in the male scrotum.
The doctor may order the following tests:
- CT scan of the abdomen
- Ultrasound of the abdomen and kidney
- Intravenous pyelogram(IVP)
- Renal arteriography
- Blood chemistry
- Complete blood count (CBC)
- Liver function tests
- Urine tests
The doctor may do the following tests to see if cancer has spread:
- Abdominal CT scan
- Abdominal MRI
- Chest x-ray
- Chest CT scan
- Bone scan
- PET scan
How is renal cell carcinoma treated?
Different types of standard treatment options are available to treat renal cell carcinoma. The following are the five types of standard treatments:
- Arterial Embolization
- Radiation therapy
Your doctor may recommend nephrectomy (surgery to remove the entire or a part of the kidney). Sometimes, this may involve removing the bladder, surrounding tissues, or lymph nodes. Cancer can be cured if all of the cancer is removed with surgery. Cancer may not be cured if some cancer is left behind, but there is still benefit from surgery.
Even if the doctor removes all cancer that can be seen at the time of the surgery, some patients may be given chemotherapy or radiation therapy after surgery to kill any cancer cells that are left. Treatment given after the surgery, to lower the risk of cancer coming back is called adjuvant therapy.
Doctors may use a treatment called arterial embolization to shrink the tumor when surgery to remove the cancer is not possible. In this procedure, a small incision is made and a catheter (a thin tube) is inserted into the main blood vessel that flows to the kidney. Small pieces of a special gelatin sponge are injected through the catheter into the blood vessel. The sponges block the blood flow to the kidney and prevent the cancer cells from getting oxygen and other substances they need to grow.
Immunotherapy, also called biotherapy, is a treatment that uses the patient’s immune system to fight cancer. Substances made by the body or made in a laboratory are used to boost, direct, or restore the body’s natural defenses against cancer. This type of cancer treatment is also called biotherapy or immunotherapy.
The following are the types of biologic therapy may be used in the treatment of renal cell cancer:
- Nivolumab: This is a monoclonal antibody that boosts the body’s immune response against renal cell cancer cells.
- Interferon: This drug affects the division of cancer cells and can slow tumor growth.
- Interleukin-2 (IL-2): This drug boosts the growth and activity of many immune cells, especially lymphocytes (a type of white blood cell). Lymphocytes can attack and kill cancer cells.
When and how doctors use the chemotherapy depends on the type and stage of the kidney cancer. Sometimes, chemotherapy is used after surgery to kill any cancer cells that are left.
When and how doctors use the radiation therapy depends on the type and stage of the kidney cancer. External radiation therapy is used to treat kidney cancer. Sometimes, radiation therapy is used to kill any cancer cells that are left. It may also be used as palliative therapy to relieve symptoms and improve quality of life.
This feature is for informational purposes only and is not intended to substitute the expert guidance of a doctor. We advise seeing a doctor if you have any health concerns.