What are Signs and Symptoms of Kidney Cancer?
Kidney cancer is one of the 10 most common cancers in the United States. It can be primary or the result of metastasis from other sites. Primary kidney cancer begins in the kidney itself, while metastasis means that the malignant cells have traveled from other sites and lodged in the kidney.
The signs and symptoms of kidney cancer are:
- Blood in the urine
A little less than half of patients with kidney cancer have blood in their urine. The amount of blood can be so small that only a lab test can detect it. On the other hand, the presence of blood may turn the urine pink, red or tea-colored.
- Pain in the flank
Many kidney cancer patients report pain in their lower back in an area on either side of the spine. The pain can range from dull to stabbing, though some people simply feel a persistent type of pressure.
- A fever that is usually low but unexplained
This fever comes and goes.
- A mass in the abdomen
About 45 percent of patients with kidney cancer feel a lump or a mass. This usually means that the cancer is advanced, for the kidney is seated deep within the abdominal cavity and small lumps can’t be easily felt. The doctor might need to give the patient a CT or MRI scan and/or a biopsy to make a positive diagnosis that the lump is malignant.
- High blood pressure
The kidney helps to regulate a person’s blood pressure, and the cancer interferes with this ability.
The cancer also interferes with the body’s ability to make red blood cells, which results in anemia.
The fatigue that is felt with cancer is not just a normal tiredness, but interferes with the person’s day to day activities. Fatigue tends to worsen during cancer treatment. The anemia that is often a symptom of kidney cancer can make the fatigue even worse.
- Unexplained weight loss
A person with kidney cancer may find themselves losing weight even when they don’t want to or are not on a diet. They may also suffer loss of appetite that only exacerbates their weight loss.
The symptoms of kidney cancer are what’s known as non-specific, which means that they mimic symptoms of many other diseases, including diseases and conditions that are benign. Blood in the urine can be a sign of a urinary tract infection, for example. It is not unusual for kidney cancer to be discovered through an imaging test when a person goes to their doctor for another complaint.
The causes of kidney cancer are unknown, but it usually strikes people over 40 and is one of the most common cancers that strike people over 60. It affects men and women, though men are twice as likely to get this form of cancer. Other people who are more at risk for kidney cancer are people who:
- Are obese
- Have already been treated for renal failure
- Have high blood pressure
- Have a family history of kidney cancer
Fortunately, the five year survival rate for people who are treated for their kidney cancer is fairly promising. For example, in stage I cancer, where the cancer has not spread outside of the kidney, the five year survival rate is as high as 81 percent.