Kidney Cancer: Types, Symptoms & Treatments

Kidney cancer, also referred to as renal cancer, is among the ten most common cancers found in both men and women. The cancer team at SSM Health understands the confusion and fear of a cancer diagnosis. Our oncologists, surgeons and support staff are here to answer your questions and find the right course of treatment for you.

Some types of kidney cancers are hereditary. More commonly though, the risks for kidney cancer are smoking, obesity, and workplace exposure to toxins. Our oncologists diagnose and treat the following types of kidney cancer:

  • Renal cell carcinoma
  • Transitional cell carcinoma
  • Sarcoma

Signs & Symptoms of Kidney Cancer

It’s important to note that traditional signs and symptoms of kidney cancer can resemble other more common conditions. It’s never a bad thing to be overly cautious though. Our physicians encourage you to look out for:

  • Blood in the urine
  • Discomfort or pressure in the side or back
  • Lump or mass in the side or back
  • Swollen legs and ankles
  • High blood pressure or anemia (low red blood cell count)
  • Tiredness and fatigue
  • Loss of appetite
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Unexplained, recurrent fevers
  • Rapid development of varicocele (a cluster of enlarged veins) around the testicles in men

If you are experiencing any combination of these symptoms, schedule an appointment with your primary care physician to discuss the symptoms and your next steps.

Treating Your Kidney Cancer

Removal of part or all of the kidneys is the most common treatment for kidney cancer. Because the body is able to properly function with only one kidney, nephrectomies have shown to be the most effective treatment. The different types of nephrectomy include:

  • Radical nephrectomy: entire kidney removed with adrenal gland, surrounding tissue and occasionally the lymph nodes
  • Simple nephrectomy: kidney removed
  • Partial nephrectomy: tumor containing part of the kidney removed

Other treatments that may be used include:

  • Targeted therapy
  • Immunotherapy
  • Radiation therapy
  • Arterial embolization
  • Chemotherapy – not traditionally effective

Follow-Up Care After Kidney Cancer

Continued monitoring is necessary after receiving a nephrectomy. Living with one kidney can lead to a decline in overall kidney function. While the long-term side effects of kidney cancer are minimal, some chronic pain from the surgical site is possible. With kidney cancer, as well as many other serious conditions, it’s important to visit your care team for regular checkups.

The earlier you detect and treat your condition, the better. Start your path to healing today with the help of the cancer team at SSM Health. Find a location near you and make the call that starts your recovery journey.

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