If you have been diagnosed with any cancer, you’re probably hoping to have remission. But is it possible for kidney cancer? The answer depends on several factors. Furthermore, each case is unique. The good news, the prognosis and outlook of patients with kidney cancer is pretty good.
Cancer remission marks a major turn in the treatment and long-term health of patient. Even some doctors say that it’s one step closer to a cure.
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But sometimes it can be more complicated than simply being done with cancer treatment. A challenging thing, there is no procedure to entirely scan all the cancer cells in the body so thus doctors can determine whether all of them have gone away.
In general, remission in cancer is divided into two categories, partial and complete.
- Partial remission. It means that the cancer has not been completely removed – the cancer is definitely still there. But the cancerous tumor has gotten smaller and many cancer symptoms have gone away. Even as long as the cancer doesn’t start to grow again, patient may be allowed to take a break from the treatment. However, it’s still important to continue to check.
- Complete remission or sometimes called NED (no evidence of the disease). This means that all of the cancer signs and symptoms have gone away (disappeared). Physical exams, scans, or other tests don’t show any sign of the cancer. But this doesn’t mean that the disease is definitely cured.
Since there is still no way to know that all the cancer cells are gone, doctors prefer using the word ‘remission’ to ‘cured’.
But if you have complete remission more than five years, the cancer maybe curable. Because the recurrence of the cancer usually occurs within five years following the first diagnosis and treatment – and on other hand, it’s less likely to recur 5 years or more after complete remission!
Cancer staging is important to determine how big the cancer is and how far it has spread so doctors can make the most appropriate treatment plan. It also plays a key role to determine your chance of having remission after treatment or even a cure.
There are two main ways to determine the cancer stage. These are (1) TNM staging and (2) the number staging system.
As the name implies, it consists of 3 main variables; T, N, and M. T describes how far the cancer has grown and developed. It includes:
- T0, a condition in which there is no a primary cancer in the kidney. The word ‘primary’ points to a cancer that first started in the kidney. Cancer from elsewhere in the body can spread to the kidney, and this is called secondary cancer.
- T1, there is a primary cancer in the kidney and the size of the tumor is less than 7 cm (2.76 inches) across. The cancer is completely inside the affected kidney.
- T2, now the size of the primary tumor is bigger – more than 7 cm (2.76 inches) across. But the cancer is also still completely inside the affected kidney.
- T3, the cancer has affected or spread to the nearby organs such as adrenal gland, the capsule of the affected kidney, a major vein, or other tissues around the kidney.
- T4, it’s the most advanced stage in T staging. It is a condition in which the cancer has grown and spread further than the tissues around the affected kidney.
N staging refers to whether or not the cancer has affected the lymph node:
- N0, a condition in which there is no cancer cell found in any lymph node.
- N1, the cancer is found in one lymph node (typically the nearby lymph node around the affected kidney).
- N2, now it has affected more than one lymph node.
And for M, it describes the metastasis of the cancer. Metastasis is a term used to call the process of the cancer cells that break away from the primary tumor and spread to a distant organ. When the cancer has not spread, this is called M0 – and M1, when it has spread!
The number staging system
By assessing the T, N, and M stages, an overall stage of kidney cancer can be determined. And the number staging system consists of 4 main stages.
- Stage I. All of the cancer cells are completely inside the kidney and the size of tumor is not more than 7 cm (2.76 inches).
- Stage II. The cancer is also still completely inside the affected kidney, but the size of the tumor is now more than 7 cm (2.76 inches) across.
- Stage III. It is the locally advanced stage, a condition in which the cancer has grown into a major vein nearby or adrenal gland close to the affected kidney. But there is no more than one lymph node affected.
- Stage IV or also often called metastatic stage. The cancer cells have spread to another part of the body –or– it has affected the surrounding tissues and more than one lymph node affected. It is the most advanced stage of the disease.
Again, since each case of cancer is unique there is no any statistic that can tell you exactly what will happen! The same goes for the chance of having remission for kidney cancer. However in general, there are some factors that have an effect, as noted before.
At early stages, it’s more possible to completely remove all the cancer cells – making them easier to treat and less likely to recur so thus you have better prognosis. Stage I and II, when the cancer has not spread yet (still completely inside the kidney) is the best scenario for patient to have a complete remission after treatment.
The chances decrease as the disease progresses to become advanced. Stage III, locally advanced stage, may also still be curable if it’s possible to remove all the cancer cells – though it’s more difficult to treat than stage I and II.
Stage IV, when the cancer has spread (metastasized) to another part of the body, is the worst the scenario. It is usually incurable and the chance of having remission also declines drastically.
The cancer stage often pays more attention when it comes to determining the outlook of the disease. But it’s not the only one! The possibility of having remission for kidney cancer is also dependent on the following factors: