Kidney Cancer

When kidney cancer is identified and treated before spreading to lymph nodes, five-year survival rates are as high as 92%. We’ll be with you every step of the way.

Let’s walk this road together.

Kidney Cancer Fundamentals

Nothing can change your life like a cancer diagnosis, but there is some good news about kidney cancer. There are several different types of kidney cancer, but survival rates are usually good, and we can often treat it surgically. The better news is that you have the depth and breadth of INTEGRIS and the INTEGRIS Cancer Institute behind you, with the region’s foremost collection of therapies, physicians and specialists.

We’re here for you every step of the way, from the first diagnosis and staging to treatment and even beyond – with rehabilitation designed specifically for cancer survivors. We know this can be a challenging time, so please ask your physician about any concerns or questions you might have.

Risk Factors

We’re not sure what causes kidney cancer. We know that you’re more likely to develop it if you have a family history of it, are African American, male or have had certain hereditary syndromes, and according to the American Cancer Society, there are a number of other risk factors that you’d be smart to avoid:

  • Smoking
  • Asbestos exposure
  • Cadmium exposure
  • Obesity
  • Advanced kidney disease
  • High blood pressure
  • Diuretics (water pills)

Understanding Kidney Cancer

The following are the most common symptoms of kidney cancer, but you may experience symptoms differently and these symptoms may resemble other conditions or medical problems. It’s always best to talk with your doctor. Kidney cancer symptoms include:

  • Blood in the urine
  • Rapid, unexplained weight loss
  • Low back pain (not caused by an injury)
  • Loss of appetite
  • Swelling of ankles and legs
  • Mass or lump on the side or lower back
  • Fatigue
  • Recurrent fever (not caused by a cold or the flu)
  • High blood pressure
  • Anemia
  • Unrelieved pain in the side

If your doctor thinks you might have kidney cancer, exams and tests will be required to reach an accurate diagnosis. This begins with your physician asking questions about your health history, symptoms, risk factors and family history of disease, and may continue with more in-depth tests:

  • Blood and Urine Laboratory Tests
  • Intravenous Pyelogram (IVP): In this test, a contrast dye is injected into a vein in your arm or hand. As the dye moves through and outlines your kidney, ureters, and bladder, your doctor takes a series of x-rays to find tumors, abnormalities, kidney stones, or any blockages.
  • Renal Angiography (Arteriography): A series of X-rays with the injection of a contrast dye into a catheter, which is placed into the blood vessels of the kidney to detect any signs of blockage or abnormalities affecting blood supply to your kidneys.
  • Other imaging tests (to show the difference between diseased and healthy tissues), including the following:
    • Computed Tomography Scan (CT or CAT Scan): A non-invasive type of X-ray procedure that takes cross-sectional images of your internal organs to detect any abnormalities that may not show up on an ordinary X-ray.
    • Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI):A non-invasive procedure that uses radio waves and strong magnets to produce very detailed two-dimensional views of internal organs and structures.
    • Ultrasound (Sonography): A diagnostic imaging technique which uses high-frequency sound waves and a computer to create images of blood vessels, tissues, and organs. Ultrasounds are used to view internal organs as they function, and to assess blood flow through various vessels.
    • Chest X-Ray: A diagnostic test which uses invisible electromagnetic energy beams to produce images of internal tissues, bones and organs on film.
    • Bone Scan: A nuclear imaging method to evaluate any degenerative and/or arthritic changes in the joints; to detect bone diseases and tumors; to determine the cause of bone pain or inflammation.

Based on results of other tests and procedures, a biopsy may be needed. A biopsy is a procedure in which a sample of the tumor is removed and sent to the laboratory for examination by a pathologist.

Specific treatment for kidney cancer will be determined by your doctor based on your age, overall health, medical history, the extent of the disease and your tolerance for specific medications, procedures or therapies. Of course, your personal opinions and preferences will also be taken into consideration. Treatments may include:

  • Surgery: Surgery to remove the kidney is called a nephrectomy and it is the most common treatment for kidney cancer. The following are different types of nephrectomy procedures:
    • Radical Nephrectomy: The whole kidney is removed along with the adrenal gland, tissue around the kidney and sometimes nearby lymph nodes.
    • Simple Nephrectomy: Only the kidney is removed.
    • Partial Nephrectomy: Only the part of the kidney that contains the tumor is removed. The remaining kidney is generally able to perform the work of both kidneys.
  • Radiation Therapy: Radiation therapy uses high-energy X-rays to kill cancer cells, and is also sometimes used to relieve pain when kidney cancer has spread to the bone.
  • Targeted Therapy: Targeted therapy uses drugs that attack specific parts of cancer cells. These drugs work differently from standard chemotherapy drugs, and often have less severe side effects. They are commonly the first line of treatment for advanced kidney cancer.
  • Biological Therapy (Immunotherapy): Biological therapy is a treatment that uses the body's own immune system to fight cancer.
  • Chemotherapy: Chemotherapy is the use of drugs to kill cancer cells. Unfortunately, kidney cancer is often resistant to chemotherapy drugs.
  • Arterial Embolization: Arterial embolization is a procedure in which small pieces of a special gelatin sponge, or other material, are injected through a catheter to clog the main renal blood vessel, shrinking the tumor by depriving it of the oxygen-carrying blood and other substances it needs to grow. It may also be used before an operation to make surgery easier, or to provide relief from pain when removal of the tumor is not possible.

At INTEGRIS, we offer a wide variety of support programs and services along with the Troy and Dollie Smith Wellness Center to help patients with kidney cancer and their loved ones manage the physical and emotional effects of a cancer diagnosis and treatment.

Support services for kidney cancer include:

  • Mind, body therapies including acupuncture, massage, and yoga
  • Research and clinical trials
  • Nutrition consultations 
  • Pastoral care, spiritual support and relaxation techniques
  • Resource Room
  • Clinical social work services
  • Counseling
  • Patient navigation and survivor care planning
  • Multidisciplinary clinic coordination 
  • Cancer screenings 
  • Patient and family support groups
  • Integrative Medicine Clinic

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