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Kidney Cancer

What is kidney cancer?

Kidney cancer is a disease in which kidney cells become malignant (cancerous) and forms a tumor becoming uncontrollable. In other words, kidney cancer is caused by abnormal growth of cells in the kidneys. Almost all kidney cancers firstly develops in the parts of the kidney cells called tubules. This type of kidney cancer is called ‘renal cell carcinoma’.

Renal cell carcinomas (RCCs) constitute about 90 percent of kidney cancer cases. Other types of kidney cancer include:

  • Urothelial carcinoma, or renal pelvis cancer that begins on inner surface of renal pelvis,
  • Wilms tumor (nephroblastoma), the most common cancer seen in children aged 14 and under,
  • Rarely seen renal sarcoma develops in soft connective tissue of the kidney.


What are the symptoms of kidney cancer?

Kidney cancer usually does not cause obvious or disturbing symptoms in its early stages. Small-sized tumors in early stages can usually be detected by chance, especially on abdominal ultrasonography or tomography that is performed due to another disease.

As the kidney tumor grows, the symptoms listed below may occur:

  • In some cases, blood can be seen in the urine, and traces of blood are detected in urinalysis.
  • A tuber or mass may be detected in renal area.
  • Especially in lumbar region, pains that are not very severe and do not disappear may occur.

Symptoms that are less common in kidney cancer may include:

  • Tiredness
  • Loss of appetite
  • Weight loss
  • High fever
  1. High blood pressure or number of red cells less than normal in the blood (low RBC) (anemia) may also indicate a kidney tumor. These symptoms are seen less frequently.
  2. On the other hand, if the tumor has spread to the organs such as bones, lungs, the symptoms related to cough, bloody sputum, bone pain may also be observed due to this spread.


How is kidney cancer diagnosed?

Since kidney cancer is usually asymptomatic, in other words, it gives symptoms, the tumor is most often detected when the patient undergoes a medical test for another reason. In fact, kidney tumor that the patient is not aware of it can be detected when the disease is still in early stages, in his/her ultrasonography and computed tomography studies performed on any complaint. For example, when the patient contacts a doctor due to gallbladder complaint and is referred to take an ultrasonography by an Internal Medicine Specialist, the probability of detection of developing kidney tumor during ultrasonography is quite high.

Computed Tomography (CT) and MRI studies are usually the only tests that physicians need to diagnose kidney cancer. Sometimes physicians also use the method known as percutaneous biopsy if they need more information about the tumor before recommending the treatment. During this operation, the physician anesthetizes the skin using local anesthesia. Then, he/she uses a small needle to pull out some of the tissue.

Physicians can use CT studies or ultrasonography (using sound waves to create images on a computer monitor) to determine the location of the tumor and guide the insertion and withdrawal of the needle. A pathologist, who is a physician studying diseases in the laboratory, examines tissue samples under the microscope for signs of cancer.

Urine tests do not diagnose kidney cancer, but the physician may want to see if there is blood in the urine, which is a common symptom of advanced kidney cancer. On the other hand, blood tests help physicians to determine whether the kidneys are working properly, but they are not used to diagnose kidney cancer.

How is kidney cancer treated?

Options for treating kidney cancer may depend on a number of factors, such as the patient's general health condition and the type of kidney cancer, whether the cancer has spread, and treatment preferences. The standard method of treating kidney cancers is surgery. The purpose of surgical procedure is to eliminate cancer, maintaining normal kidney function as far as possible. Considering the stage of cancer, the size of the mass, which part of the kidney the mass is in, and number of the mass, entire kidney or only the mass is removed by closed method. cancer has spread beyond the kidney, additional treatments may be recommended.

Removal of affected kidney (nephrectomy)

Full (radical) includes the removal of entire kidney, health tissue border and sometimes additional tissues such as lymph nodes, adrenal glands and other structures.

The surgeon can perform a nephrectomy through a single incision (open nephrectomy) in the abdomen or side or through the series of small incisions in the abdomen (laparoscopic or robotically assisted laparoscopic nephrectomy). Currently, very few of these operations are performed by open surgery.

Removal of the tumor from the kidney (partial nephrectomy)
This procedure, also called kidney-preserving or nephron-preserving surgery, is a common treatment method used for early-stage (less than 7 cm) tumors. In kidney protective surgery, it is aimed to maintain kidney function as much as possible and to reduce the risk of later complications such as kidney disease and the need for dialysis.

Da Vinci Robotic Surgery provides great advantages to the patient in kidney tumor surgeries. In cases such as partial removal of the kidney or removal of the tumor part of the kidney, the problem is solved by inserting from the abdomen via 4-5 holes, separating the tumor tissue, without the need for a large surgical incision and without compromising oncological and surgical principles.

Among the treatments other than surgery, the effectiveness of applications such as chemotherapy and radiation therapy is low in the treatment of kidney cancer. Immunotherapy works to strengthen the body's own immune system. Immunotherapy is a treatment option for people with advanced kidney cancer. Cytokines (proteins that activate the immune system) can be given intravenously or orally and can reduce cancer. Targeted treatments can also be applied for advanced kidney cancers. Targeted treatments have the feature of targeting specific molecules. Medications that provide targeted treatment are usually given in the form of tablets or intravenously. Tyrosine kinase inhibitors (TKIs) have been tried in people with advanced kidney cancer, and it has been found that they lead to fewer side effects than chemotherapy medications.

What should be considered after kidney cancer treatment?

Because intestinal movements slow down after kidney cancer surgery, patients feel swelling in the abdomen. It is important for patients to move early after surgery so that their intestinal movements return to normal as soon as possible. It is not recommended for patients to lift heavy loads for 2 months after surgery. Medications treatments given for kidney cancer can cause fatigue, high blood pressure, and thyroid hormones working lowly in the patients. For patients who have started taking medication, it is important to check their blood pressures and to measure their thyroid hormone levels.

Why should I have kidney cancer treatment at Memorial Health Group?

Memorial Health Group is equipped with all kinds of technological treatments that are required to treat kidney cancers. The latest model robots that allow angiography to be performed during the surgery in our hospitals, and drop-in probes that make it possible to perform ultrasonography through the abdomen during the surgery are used in our surgeries. Memorial Health Group has surgical teams that have high-level experience in kidney cancer surgery and make it possible to perform the most difficult operations. If necessary, the cancers that have spread to the body is treated with a multidisciplinary approach along with cardiovascular surgery. In addition, all cases of kidney cancer have been evaluated and discussed at the ‘Oncology Council’ that determines the patient's treatment program using a multidisciplinary approach, then "personally-designated" cancer treatment is recommended to our patients.


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