Like most things in cancer, the prognosis and life expectancy for kidney cancer is much better if it has not spread yet. The more advanced it is, more difficult to treat. Therefore, early diagnosis is important before it becomes advanced. Even it may be able to be cured if caught early. The grade of the cancer also often plays a role how curable it is.
Typically, the symptoms will not occur until the cancer has become advanced. At early stages, it rarely causes signs and symptoms. The symptoms may vary, but in general these include:
- Blood found in the urine. This is the most common symptom of the condition. Overtime, the cancer grows and causes bleeding that can be noticed through urine.
- Back pain (especially upper back pain in the flank area).
- Other symptoms can be vogue. These include fatigue (tiredness), unexplained weight loss, intermittent fever, night sweats, and a general sense of feeling sick /unwell.
The exact cause of the condition is not fully known. What experts know, cancer (including kidney cancer) occurs when the normal /healthy cells of the body (normal kidney cells) acquire mutations, causing these cells to grow and divide rapidly (out of control). The accumulating these abnormal cells will make a cancerous tumor growth that may also extend beyond the kidney. Over time, some cells may break away from the original site and metastasize (spread) to other parts of the body.
While it’s not clear yet what causes the problem, some risk factors are successfully identified. Generally, your risk of kidney cancer increases if you have the following factors /conditions:
- Older age. The risk increases with age.
- Obesity may also increase the risk.
- Hypertension (high blood pressure).
- Exposure to tobacco smoke. The risk is higher in smokers than in non-smokers.
- Treatment for kidney failure may also have an effect. Research suggests that taking long-term dialysis to treat kidney disease (such as kidney failure) may increase the risk of kidney cancer.
- People with particular inherited syndromes such as tuberous sclerosis, Birt-Hogg-Dube syndrome, and von Hippel-Lindau disease.
Fortunately, kidney cancer is often treatable. The life expectancy of patients with the condition is also pretty good – even it seems that the survival rate tends to improve year by year. Read also the outlook and prognosis of this cancer in here!
These two variables are important to help determine the most appropriate treatments for kidney cancer. The stage describes how far the cancer has progressed. And the grade points to how aggressive the cancer is likely to behave.
Stages of kidney cancer
There are several staging systems for cancer. But all of them have the same goal, to determine how far the cancer has spread.
The TNM system is one of common procedures to determine the stage of kidney cancer. As the name suggests, it stands for T, N, and M. T describes the size of the tumor (how large it has grown). N describes whether lymph nodes have been affected by the cancer. And M, which is also called metastases, describes whether the cancer cells have spread to another part of the body.
Another way to determine the cancer stage is with the number stages, typically from stage I to stage IV:
- Stage I. The cancerous tumor is very small in size, not more than 7 cm across. And it is still completely inside the kidney.
- Stage II. The cancerous tumor is bigger than in stage I, more than 7 cm and it is still completely inside the kidney.
- Stage III. The cancer cells have affected one of the major nearby veins or grown into the adrenal gland. But there is only one nearby lymph node containing cancer cells.
- Stage IV. It is the most advanced stage in which the cancer cells are found in more than one lymph node and has grown into the surrounding tissues – or they have spread to another part of the body.
Grade of kidney cancer
Grading cancer is used to determine how the cancer cells look like when closely observed under the microscope and compared to normal cells. It can use a scale of one to three, or one to four. But in essence, the higher score of cancer grade means the more aggressive it is. Aggressive cancer is relatively easier to spread, more difficult to treat, and also likely to come back after treatment.
In addition, the type of cancer cells can also affect the way of how the cancer will behave. While some types are likely to grow slowly (less aggressive), a few types of kidney cancer are likely to become an aggressive cancer and relatively easier to spread which means more difficult to cure. Learn more types of kidney cancer in this section!
You can expect to be cared by a team that consists of a kidney specialist, a specialist cancer surgeon, a radiologist, an oncologist, and a specialist nurse. The team will recommend the best treatment plan you need to follow. However the final decision is yours!
The chance to cure kidney cancer varies from case to case. But in general, again the stage and grade of the cancer plays a key role!