Kidney Cancer: Get Informed, Advanced Care in Greater Chicago

What is kidney cancer?

Like in nearly any part of the body, cells in the kidney can become cancerous (grow uncontrollably) and spread to other parts of the body. Because it originates in the kidneys, it is known as kidney cancer, or renal cancer. The vast majority of kidney cancers first appear in the lining of the tiny tubes in the kidney, called “tubules.” Kidney cancer of this type is renal cell carcinoma, which — while common for kidney cancer — accounts for only about 3% of all adult forms of cancer.

Kidney cancer occurs in men at about twice the rate it affects women. Close to 64,000 adults will be diagnosed with kidney cancer his year, and it will claim more than 14,000 lives.

Who is at risk for developing renal cancer?

There are several factors that can increase your risk for developing kidney cancer:

  • Age – The older you are, the greater your risk.
  • Smoking – Smoking increases your risk, and quitting smoking lowers it.
  • Toxic exposures – Continued exposure to asbestos, benzene, cadmium, certain herbicides or organic solvents can elevate your level of risk for kidney cancer.
  • Obesity – Being obese puts you at higher risk than if you maintained a normal weight.
  • Treatment for kidney failure – People who’ve been in long-term dialysis to treat chronic kidney failure have increased risk of developing kidney cancer.
  • Heredity – Being born with von Hippel-Lindau disease, Birt-Hogg-Dube syndrome, familial papillary renal cell carcinoma and other inherited syndromes put you at increased risk.

Symptoms usually show up in later stages of kidney cancer.

Kidney cancer unfortunately has few symptoms in its early stages. This means it is usually undetected and undiagnosed (or misdiagnosed) until the tumor has grown large enough to press against and displace other organs, causing symptoms. These include:

  • Blood in urine, but no pain (hematuria)
  • An abdominal mass or hard lump
  • Thickening or bulging under the skin
  • Spine or flank pain or pressure

How is renal cancer diagnosed?

Because there are few early stage symptoms, many renal tumors are found incidentally by X-ray, CT or ultrasound scans performed for completely unrelated reasons. When diagnosed, about 30% of people with kidney cancer show signs of advanced cancer. At diagnosis, 15 to 25% have kidney cancer that has already spread to other areas of the body (metastasis).

The potential for cancer spread is why it’s important for diagnostic efforts to be thorough. Different approaches may be used to diagnose kidney cancer, depending on your symptoms. This starts with a detailed physical exam and thorough medical history. From there, other tests help confirm or rule out the presence of kidney cancer, including:

  • CT – Computed tomography provides very detailed, accurate cross-section images of internal anatomy, making it the primary tool for assessing for kidney cancer.
  • MRI – Magnetic resonance imaging uses magnetics and radiowaves to produce cross-section pictures for layer-by-layer visualization of the kidneys and surrounding organs/structures.
  • Ultrasound – Ultrasonic waves are digitally interpreted into images of the kidneys, ureters and bladder that can reveal abnormalities. Ultrasound can also guide biopsy.
  • Xray – Helps determine if the cancer has spread to the lungs or bones.
  • Bone scan – Also for checking for the spread of cancer to the bones.
  • PET – Positron-emission tomography combines the visualization of structures using CT with the ability to see metabolic activity of the cancer wherever in the body it occurs.
  • IV pyelogram – After injecting a special contrast agent (dye) into the blood, X-ray captures images of how well or poorly the dye circulates through the kidneys.
  • Angiography – Allows doctors to evaluate the location and function of the renal arteries, which provide blood, oxygen and nutrients to the kidneys. It can also reveal blood vessels supplying blood to the tumor in order to plan surgery and to help diagnose kidney cancer.
  • Biopsy – If there’s a strong suspicion that a tumor may be malignant, it will be surgically removed and sent for pathology tests to determine if it’s cancer and, if so, its particular stage of development.
  • Other tests – These include blood tests, urinalysis, staging, grading and characterization of categories.

Treatment for kidney cancer.

Kidney cancer is treated in a variety of ways, the exact combination of which depends on several different factors. It’s essential to carefully consider your options in consultation with your doctor. A very important factor in this decision is the stage of your kidney cancer. Other factors include potential side effects, your overall health, probability of cure, likelihood of extending life and potential for relief of symptoms.

Here are the treatments that may be options for treating your kidney cancer:

  • Surgery
  • Cryotherapy
  • Radiofrequency ablation
  • Arterial embolization
  • Active surveillance
  • Radiation therapy
  • Chemotherapy
  • Targeted therapy
  • Immunotherapy

Rely on Chicagoland’s experienced community-based cancer specialists.

If you or a loved one have or are concerned about developing kidney cancer, call Alpha Med. Alpha Med Physicians Group is Chicagoland’s highly experienced, dedicated provider of compassionate, individualized and leading-edge cancer care. Our seasoned oncologists understand kidney cancer, follow the latest protocols, and offer the most advanced treatments available today.

For more information, or to schedule an appointment for kidney cancer surgery in Tinley Park, Homewood, Palos Heights and the greater Chicago area, call 708-928-5040. You can also request an appointment using the easy online form on this page.