There are usually no early kidney symptoms, including for men over 60 (the age group that accounts about a half of all the cases). Typically, the symptoms occur in the latter stages of the disease. But since early diagnosis is important, see your doctor promptly if you have any unusual symptoms related to your kidney function!
Older age is one of the main risk factors to have kidney cancer. In other words, the risk increases with age. And when the gender is taken into account, it is also diagnosed more often in men than women. So, it is not uncommon to find many men over 60 with this cancer.
Other risk factors include:
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- Obesity (body mass index a.k.a ‘BMI’ is 30 or greater). More pounds of weight you gain can lead to changes in hormone (hormonal imbalances), which some could contribute to increase the risk.
- Cigarette smoking. Long-term exposure to tobacco smoke is linked to many types of cancer, including kidney cancer. This is also the reason of why men are affected more often than women, because more men smoked in the past.
- Kidney disease, especially when you have to take kidney dialysis! Kidney cancer is quite common in people with personal history of having long-term kidney dialysis.
- Family history, especially if you have first degree relative (such as father, mother, brother, or sister) with the same condition.
- There are also particular inherited health conditions that may contribute to increase the risk. These include Birt-Hogg-Dube syndrome, von Hippel-Lindau disease, and tuberous sclerosis.
- Poorly-controlled hypertension (high blood pressure). In fact, kidney problem is a common consequence and cause of hypertension.
- Diabetes (chronic high blood sugar). Studies suggest that having diabetes (especially if it is poorly controlled) may increase the risk of kidney cancer, see more in here!
- Thyroid cancer. It’s though that there is a link between thyroid cancer and kidney cancer.
- The overuse of certain medications, such as some mild painkillers.
- Radiation therapy for another cancer, especially if the radiation is directed around pelvic area. For example – if compared to men in general population, men treated with radiation therapy for testicular cancer are almost twice as likely to develop kidney cancer.
Interestingly, the treatment is not always necessary for older men with kidney cancer, particularly true if the cancer is not aggressive.
According to one study, older patients with small kidney tumors were more likely to NOT die over the next 5 years instead of taking surgery right away!
While the cancer can be life-threatening, the cancer treatment is also not easy to cope. In older patients, surgery may roughly double the risk of having other serious problems such as heart problems, increasing their risk of dying of other causes.
The cancer treatments are also less likely to work effectively in older patients. The benefits of the treatment may not outweigh the risks!
With all of these reasons, it’s possible for the doctors to suggest watchful-waiting procedure (especially if they believe that the treatment doesn’t have an effect to improve the cancer outcomes). But this doesn’t mean that the cancer is ignored. Still, it will be monitored with periodic imaging tests! And if there is any signal of when the cancer starts to grow aggressively, the treatment is given immediately!
Again, there is usually no early symptom of kidney cancer. Even sometimes it is caught accidentally. For example, some patients are diagnosed with it when they take tests for something else.
In general, the following are common procedures and tests to diagnose kidney cancer:
- Urine and blood tests. Abnormal changes in urine and blood may signal a problem in the kidney such as cancer.
- Imaging tests (such as MRI, ultrasound, or CT-scan) to get detailed, clearly pictures /visualizations of your kidneys. The abnormality such as abnormal cancerous growth may show up on these tests. But sometimes, the cancer is too small and doesn’t show up. For such case, another test such as biopsy may be suggested.
- Biopsy, a procedure to remove a sample tissue of your kidney (especially from a suspicious area). The sample tissue is then closely observed in the lab to find any sign of cancer.
If the cancer does cause early symptoms, these can also be vague. For example, pain in the lower back (especially in the flank area) can be associated with problem arising from the kidney such as kidney cancer. But this symptom can also be attributed by a number of different causes.
So the diagnosis doesn’t only rely on the symptoms that you’re experiencing. Nevertheless, your symptoms can give a clue of what tests you should take. Kidney cancer symptoms can vary from patient to patient, the main ones include: