What Causes Kidney Cancer?
The kidneys are highly underestimated organs — that is, until there is a problem with them. These two small bean-shaped organs are responsible for filtering waste out of the blood and excreting it from the body in the form of urine. If the kidneys aren’t doing their job properly, toxins can build up in the blood, wreaking havoc on your body and its systems. Various types of kidney cancer may lead to dysfunction of the kidneys. In this article, we’re going to examine precisely what kidney cancer is, its causes, risk factors, and treatment, as well as prevention. Let’s take a look.
What is Kidney Cancer?
Kidney cancer is any cancer that starts in the kidneys. The most common type of kidney cancer is renal cell carcinoma. And interestingly, the number of cases of kidney cancer continues to climb. However, many experts attribute this climb to better diagnostic tools, including computerized tomography (CT).
Usually, kidney cancer is discovered early on, and many people make a full recovery. But, what exactly causes kidney cancer? While the cause isn’t exactly known (like many types of cancer), doctors agree that it happens when the cells in the kidneys begin to divide due to DNA mutations rapidly. This abnormal cell growth accumulates in the organs, interfering with their functions and potentially spreading to other parts of the body. When cancer begins to disrupt regular kidney function, the kidneys struggle to filter the blood, which means toxin levels in the blood can quickly rise.
Other types of kidney cancer include benign kidney tumors and Wilms tumors. Benign kidney tumors happen in about 20% of kidney cancer cases. These are often removed via surgery. Wilms tumors are cancerous cells that develop in young children.
Various factors can increase a person’s risk of developing kidney cancer. These include:
- High blood pressure
- Inherited syndromes, such as tuberous sclerosis complex, Birt-Hogg-Dube syndrome, von Hippel-Lindau disease, and hereditary papillary renal cell carcinoma or familial renal cancer
- A family history of cancer or kidney cancer
In the early stages, symptoms may involve blood in the urine, pain near the kidneys, lower back pain, loss of appetite, weight loss, fever, and a low red blood cell count. A proper diagnosis is made through tests conducted by your doctor, such as urinalysis, CT scans, a physical examination, blood tests, and more.
Treatment for kidney cancer is usually quite invasive. This is because doctors aim to remove as much cancer as they physically can via surgery. If the cancer has spread or doctors cannot remove all of it, additional treatment, such as chemotherapy or radiation, will be recommended.
Treatment may also vary from person to person and from situation to situation. In some cases, certain targeted drugs are prescribed to block signals of cancerous kidney cells. These may include:
However, treatment may involve some complications in specific health scenarios. For instance, high blood pressure, high calcium blood levels, red blood cell production, and liver problems may pose issues with treatment. They may also increase a person’s risk of developing long-term complications.
If you’re battling kidney cancer, it’s also important to find emotional and psychological support during your treatment. This may mean seeking out the help of a therapist to help you process what is happening and help you cope via healthy mechanisms.
Prevention of Kidney Cancer
Preventing kidney cancer comes down to reducing and eliminating your risk factors, such as:
- Quitting Smoking: smoking doesn’t only impact your risk of developing kidney cancer. It also increases your risk of various other life-threatening diseases and conditions. If you need help quitting, reach out to your doctor. Together, you can come up with a plan to quit once and for all.
- Maintaining a Healthy Weight: being overweight or obese is linked with multiple diseases and conditions. Losing weight if you’re overweight can help reduce your risk of developing any of these adverse health effects. However, there is a word of caution here. It’s important to lose weight in a healthy and sustainable way that gives your body adequate time to adjust.
- Monitoring Blood Pressure Fluctuations: if you are at a higher risk of developing hypertension, ensure you get your blood pressure checked regularly by your doctor (or via at-home options). If you have high blood pressure, make sure you are taking your medications as directed and making lifestyle changes to combat this.
- Avoiding Chemical Toxins: increased toxins can burden the kidneys and liver, which may increase your chances of developing cancer within these organs.
Overall, leading a healthy lifestyle can help you prevent kidney cancer and lead a healthy, happy, and full life. Altering your lifestyle habits upon diagnosis can also help you fight kidney cancer. Ensure you check with your doctor during this time before you make any drastic changes to make sure they are right for you and your health.