What To Know About Kidney Cancer

by Nancy
Kidneys are bean-shaped organs of the renal system that filter out blood before it sent to the heart. Kidneys have many functions, including filtering waste products from the blood, maintaining fluid balance, secretion of hormones, and regulation of minerals in the blood. Kidney cancers are cancers that primarily begin in the kidneys. Those that originate from elsewhere and spread to the kidneys are not called kidney cancers but named after their site of origin, e.g., bladder cancer.

Signs and Symptoms of Kidney Cancers

Most people do not have any symptoms in the early stages of the disease, but a few may experience the symptoms, especially if the disease is widespread. The symptoms to look out for include. If you find you have any of the symptoms, it is necessary to consult a doctor so that treatment can commence.
⦁ Blood in the urine (hematuria)
⦁ Unexplained fever and night sweats
⦁ Pain on the side or lower back that is not caused by injury
⦁ A lump on the side or lower back
⦁ Fatigue
⦁ High blood pressure
⦁ Weight loss
⦁ Enlarged testicle
⦁ Vision changes


Your doctor will discuss your treatment options to see which one is the best for you. The treatment options are based on your overall health. The type and stage of cancer you are in, whether you have any personal preferences, and whether you had undergone any cancer treatments in the past. You must think carefully about the treatment options presented to you and weigh in before commencing treatment.

Local Treatments:

Local treatment aim at treating the tumor without interfering with the rest of the body. Local treatments work best if the disease is in the early stages.


Surgery is usually the first option, especially if the cancer is not advanced. A part or your entire kidney, including the tissues that surround the tumor, is removed to prevent cancer from spreading. It is possible to remove the whole kidney since we have two kidneys, and you can survive on one. In some cases, the surgeon removes the adrenal glands, fatty tissues, and the nearby lymph nodes. Surgical removal of the kidneys may halt some of your symptoms, such as pain and bleeding.


This method is suitable for those who are either too sick to go through surgery or those who don’t want to undergo surgery. It is usually done for small kidney cancers not larger than 4cm. Ablation may include cryoablation, where extreme cold is used to destroy the tumor and radiofrequency ablation that uses high energy radio waves to heat and destroy the tumor.

Radiation Therapy:

Radiation therapy is preferred by those who have only one kidney left and those who are too sick to undergo surgery. This treatment method uses high energy rays to kill cancerous cells. It is generally used after all other methods have been tried. You can choose this method, especially for palliative reasons, when you want to ease the symptoms of kidney cancer such as pain and bleeding.

Systemic Treatments:

You can treat kidney cancer using drugs that can be given either orally or by injection into the bloodstream. They are used on cancer on any part of the body hence the name systemic. They include:
  • Targeted Therapy:
    They include drugs that target the changes caused by kidney cancer and are used on advanced stages. These drugs are different from chemotherapy drugs and are mostly used when chemo drugs have failed. They work by slowing down the growth of cancer for some time but don’t cure cancer. You can use one of these drugs at a time, and if one fails, you try another. They often have side effects.
  • Immunotherapy:
    In this type of treatment, you use medicines to boost your immune system so that it can recognize and destroy cancer cells. There are several types of immunotherapy treatments that include immune checkpoint inhibitors, PD-1 inhibitors, PD-L1 inhibitors, CTLA-4 inhibitors, and cytokines.
  • Chemotherapy:
    During chemotherapy, one uses anticancer drugs administered either orally or intravenously. This treatment method is beneficial since the drugs go to all parts of the body and can be used for cancer that has spread. Chemotherapy is not the best method to treat kidney cancer since the kidney cancer cells do not respond very well to chemo and are only used after immunotherapy, and targeted drugs have both been tried. Chemo drugs may have side effects that include hair loss, sore mouth, fatigue, nausea, and loss of appetite, among others.