Kidney Cancer Early Warning Signs: What You Can Do

    Cancer of the kidneys is a very serious and common disease. Annually, 63,340 Americans are diagnosed with kidney cancer, and 14,970 die from it. The earlier kidney cancer is caught, the more likely it is to be cured. Kidney cancer is highly preventable if detected before stage 4. Understanding both the warning signs and treatment options for kidney cancer increases your chances of survival.

    Early Kidney Cancer Signs

    Like all cancers, kidney cancer grows gradually over time: most patients don't realize they have kidney cancer symptoms until it's too late. However, if the disease is caught early, it's highly treatable.

    Cancer begins when a single cell mutates and multiplies. Tumors in the kidneys are imperceptible and often go undetected during the early stages, due to the cancer’s slower growth rate. Nevertheless, kidney cancer can cause the following symptoms as it grows:

    • Bloody urine
    • Backache
    • Exhaustion
    • Lower back swelling

    Treatment Options

    It is most common for kidney cancer patients to be diagnosed with cancers that originate in the kidneys. However, some people may have cancer that has spread to other organs around the kidneys. A doctor will tailor treatment options to the type of cancer you have. Cancer.net classifies kidney cancer into over a dozen stages, but the medical community uses four distinct classifications.

    Stage 1: There is a high chance of curing kidney cancer at Stage 1. There is a small tumor in Stage 1. At this stage, a partial neurectomy is usually performed to remove the tumor surgically. Surgery is quite successful in Stage 1.

    Stage 2: According to Texas Oncology, kidney cancer is classified as Stage 2 when tumors measure more than 7 millimeters in diameter. Surgery is typically recommended for Stage 2 patients. Unfortunately, people with Stage 2 kidney cancer must have the infected kidney removed. Our bodies contain two kidneys, thus the majority of individuals can survive on one kidney without any severe health issues.

    Stage 3: Survival rates for kidney cancer drop drastically at Stage 3. According to Healthline, just 53% of patients have a 5-year survival rate after being diagnosed with Stage 3 kidney cancer. Tumors begin to form outside the kidneys in Stage 3. The surgery used to eradicate Stage 3 kidney cancer is called a radical neurectomy. This means that the surgeons will remove both the kidney and the nearby adrenal gland.

    Stage 4: Kidney cancer has spread to other parts of the body. According to the American Cancer Society, patients diagnosed with Stage 4 kidney cancer have an 8% chance of survival. At Stage 4, there are no effective treatments and most medical officials would not recommend them. Doctors usually recommend palliative care to help patients live comfortably as they fight kidney cancer at this stage.

    Detecting Kidney Cancer Early

    Early detection is critical for improving your chances of surviving kidney cancer. Your physician will start the diagnosis process by referring you to a nephrologist, a doctor who specializes in the kidneys and its diseases. Your nephrologist will order either a CT scan or MRI to find out if you have a tumor in your kidney. If a tumor is detected, you and your doctor can plan the best treatment option for your cancer. Doctors are trained to look for signs of kidney cancer during routine physicals, so visit your doctor regularly to help detect kidney cancer in its early stages. The best way to keep kidney cancer from killing you is to have routine urine tests – cancer screenings typically aren't given to people who aren't at high risk. Routine physicals and doctor visits are important in catching kidney cancer early before it becomes deadly.