Can Kidney Cancer Kill You?

Can kidney cancer kill you? Although the treatments have improved, but the mortality rate from the disease is still pretty high, especially true when it has become advanced. For instance, if it has spread to other parts of the body (metastasis), the goal of the treatment is just to slow the progression of the cancer – not to cure it.

The mortality rate of kidney cancer

Kidney cancer is quite common. In fact, it is the 10 most common cancers in the US and UK.

image_illustration420In 2016 – it’s estimated that about 62,700 new cases of this cancer will be diagnosed in the US. And about 14,240 patients will die from kidney cancer, according to the American Cancer Society’s Cancer Statistics Center. If this prediction is correct, it can also be one of the 10 most common causes of cancer death. These estimations include all types of kidney & renal pelvis cancers. Still, it affects more men than women. It is the tenth most common cancer for women, and seventh for men.

And in the UK, it is the 14th most common cause of cancer death. About 4,300 patients died in 2012. What else?

  1. Worldwide, about 143,000 people died from this cancer in 2012.
  2. In the same year, about 49,000 people in Europe were estimated to have passed away from this cancer.
  3. And most of deaths from this cancer (about 75 percent of all deaths) are in patients aged 65 or older.

How likely is kidney cancer to kill you?

There is also a condition called secondary kidney cancer. It is a cancer from elsewhere in the body that spreads and grows in the kidneys. And what we’re talking about in this section is primary kidney cancer, a cancer that starts and develops in the kidneys.

The risk of mortality from kidney cancer can be eliminated if it is able to be successfully cured. And the chance to cure it is dependent on several factors. But typically, the stage of the cancer plays a key role.

Cancer stage

It is most treatable at stage I and stage II – or when the cancerous cells are still completely inside the kidney. Stage III is more difficult to treat, but it may be still able to be cured if it’s possible to remove the cancer completely.

Stage IV is the worst scenario. This stage describes that the cancer have affected more than one lymph node or even the cancer cells have spread to another part of the body.

How does the cancer spread? Cancerous cells can grow and multiply out of control. Over time, they can break away from the primary tumor and spread to another part of the body (metastasis). In kidney cancer, the cancer cells usually spread through veins or arteries near the kidney or adrenal gland. They can spread anywhere – but the lymph nodes, lungs, liver, bone, central nervous system and skin are the most common places to spread.

When the cancer has spread, it is almost impossible to cure the cancer. However each case of kidney cancer is different and unique. There is no any statistic that can tell you exactly what will happen!

Cancer grade

Grading cancer can be done when determining the stage of the cancer. It is a procedure to closely observe how the cancer cells look like under the microscope. The lower grade score means the closer the cancer cells look like normal cells.

On the other hand, higher grade score means the cancer cells look more abnormal and they are more likely to become aggressive to grow. This means they are more difficult to treat and more likely to come back after treatment.

Other factors

The following factors may also have an effect:

  1. The type of the cancer. There are a number of different types of kidney cancer (the most common type is renal cell carcinoma). And some types are more likely to become more aggressive, more difficult to treat, and likely to cause mortality. See more these types in this section!
  2. The general health of patient. How well you are may also affect your prognosis and outlook to cope with the disease.
  3. Age! Older patients with kidney cancer are less likely to respond the treatment. They are also likely to have worse general health if compared to younger patients.

Fortunately, survival rate (prognosis and outlook) for people with this cancer is pretty good. Many of them are still alive 5 years or more after the treatment. For more information, see also how much time left if you have kidney cancer!

Some doctors don’t use ‘cured’ or ‘not cured’ term! But if the cancer doesn’t return more than 5 years, it is likely to be cured. Because there is only a small chance for the cancer to return more than 5 years after the treatment!

Citations /references:

  1. http://cancerstatisticscenter.cancer.org/?_ga=1.44707172.174712740.1442373985
  2. http://www.cancerresearchuk.org/health-professional/cancer-statistics/statistics-by-cancer-type/kidney-cancer

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