Tumors (growths) are a rare cause of kidney failure in the US, causing about 2% per year. Most types of benign (non-cancer) kidney tumors are removed to keep them from becoming cancerous later. Kidney cancer may have symptoms of:1
- Blood in the urine (it may be red, rusty, or brown)
- Back or flank pain
- Unplanned weight loss
- Vision problems
- Paleness and feeling cold all the time
- Excess hair growth in women
- Swelling of one testicle
What You Can Do
There are steps you can take to protect your kidney function if you have a kidney tumor:
- Keep as much kidney tissue as you can. It used to be the “gold standard” to remove a whole kidney when cancer was present. But for tumors up to 4 cm, it works just as well to remove only part of the kidney — and you keep more kidney function.2
- Consider immune treatment. Kidney cancer cells resist radiation and chemotherapy drugs. But drugs that spur your immune system can help shrink tumors. These drugs have side effects, and only an expert doctor should prescribe them.3
- Ask about drugs to cut off the tumor’s blood supply. Two new drugs have been approved by the FDA to treat advanced kidney cancer. Sorafenib (Nexavar ®)4 and sunitinib (Sutent)5 are pills that can help shrink tumors. Another drug, Avastin, may also help in kidney cancer.
- Find a support group. You can get tips and stay on top of new research findings when you find others who have the same problem. Look in our Links section below for ideas.
- Learn all you can about your condition. Knowledge is power, and new research is being done all the time.
- Seek out a specialist. When you have a rare disease, you need to find a doctor who knows what you are up against and what the current research says. No doctor can stay up to date on every illness. Ask for a referral to an expert who can consult with your doctor, or find one by talking to others who have the disease.
- Treat the symptoms. You may spill protein into your urine, lose too much water or salt, or have pain that raises your blood pressure. Getting treatment for these symptoms can help take some of the stress off of your kidneys.
- Avoid known kidney toxins
Questions to Ask Your Doctor About Kidney Cancer
- What type and stage of cancer do I have? (Writing down the name can help you seek more information)
- What treatments can I use, based on my stage?
- Which treatments do you recommend for me?
- What are the side effects or risks of these treatments?
- How can I best protect my kidney function?
- What are the chances that the cancer will return with the treatment you suggest?
Links to Learn More
- American Cancer Society – Read about kidney cancer: http://www.cancer.org/docroot/cri/content/cri_2_4_1x_what_is_kidney_cancer_22.asp.
- National Library of Medicine – Learn about kidney cancer: http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/000516.htm.
- National Cancer Institute – Visit the kidney cancer page: http://www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/types/kidney.
- The Wellness Community– This non-profit organization has cancer support forums: http://www.thewellnesscommunity.org.