Kidney cancer is relatively more common in men. Even men are about twice as likely to develop it. However it can also affect older women, including women over 50 – precisely, older age is one of risk factors of the disease. What are the symptoms?
Normally, you have two kidneys (bean-shaped organs located on each side of the spine and lower abdomen) – each about the size of your fist. The main function is to clean and filter blood, removing unnecessary things from the circulation (such as waste products) and making urine.
What we’re talking about in this section is primary kidney cancer (cancer that grows from the original cells of the kidney). There is also a term called secondary cancer, when cancer in the kidney is derived from the primary cancer elsewhere in the body.
Cancer can spread to other locations /parts of the body. This process is called metastasis. The metastasis of cancer is more difficult to treat than if the cancer has not spread. Therefore, it’s important to catch the cancer as early as possible before it becomes advanced.
There is still no answer for the exact cause of the problem. Experts only know that it occurs when normal cells of the kidney get altered and behave normally. But what triggers this abnormal behavior is not fully known.
We have millions of cells in the body. These cells can multiply when the body needs them. There is a natural mechanism of the body to control how often and how much these cells to divide. But the same thing doesn’t go for cancer cells. Because they can grow out of control – even when the body doesn’t need them!
While the exact cause still remains puzzling, the risk factors of the disease have been confirmed. Risk factor is a term used to call condition /factor that raises the risk of developing the disease. The main risk factors of kidney cancer are as follows:
- Older age, most cases of the disease is found in older adults. So in general, the risk rises with age.
- Smoking is not only bad for your lungs, but also can cause negative impact to other many parts of the body (including the kidneys). Smokers are twice as likely as non-smokers to have kidney cancer. Smoking is also linked to the increased risk of other many cancers (read more in here).
- Being obese may also increase the risk, though this is not fully understood yet. There is a theory that more pounds of extra weight you gain may play a part to cause certain hormonal changes that increase the risk.
- Medication overuse, such as the use of some pain medications in long term.
- Other kidney conditions, especially such as advanced kidney disease that requires frequent kidney dialysis (a procedure to help or even replace the kidney function). Chronic renal hypertension may increase the risk, too.
- It’s also thought that this cancer may run in families in some cases. In general, your risk increases if you have family history of kidney cancer.
- Certain genetic, inherited conditions – such as VHL (Von Hippel-Lindau) disease and HLRCC (hereditary leiomyomatosis and renal cell carcinoma).
- Other cancers such as bladder cancer and lymphoma. It is not known why certain cancers increase the risk of kidney cancer.
- Getting exposure to certain chemicals such as benzene, certain herbicides, cadmium, asbestos, or other carcinogens.
Furthermore, kidney cancer is relatively more common in certain races. For example, without known reason it affects blacks more often than whites.
Although kidney cancer is relatively more common in men, but this doesn’t mean that kidney cancer is a male disease. It can also affect women, especially those over 50.
Many times, kidney cancer in women grows without causing any symptom, pain, or discomfort – particularly true in its early stages. Even sometimes it’s caught before it starts to cause symptoms. For example, it may be accidentally diagnosed when a woman has a test for another reason (such as an imaging test of the abdomen).
In other words, the cancer usually has no early symptoms. But as the cancer grows and becomes advanced, symptoms will appear.
In general, kidney cancer symptoms in the later stages are outlined below: