Executive Director, Kidney Cancer Canada
Kidney cancer, like kidney disease, can be a silent disease. Often there are no symptoms until it’s advanced and found incidentally by ultrasound or scan when checking for other conditions. When diagnosed at a more advanced stage, the options for treatment can be more challenging.
Knowing what to look for
Suggested causes of kidney cancer are smoking, obesity, family history or genetics, high blood pressure, and advanced kidney disease. Symptoms that can appear are flank or back pain, feeling a lump or a thickening, and blood in the urine.
There are no screening methods for kidney cancer, but regular medical check-ups to monitor kidney health and a base ultrasound or CT scan for future reference are good preventative steps. Creatinine and eGFR (estimated glomerular filtration rate) tests are two simple and worthwhile blood tests to have at your regular check-up appointments.
The diagnosis of a mass in the kidney doesn’t automatically mean that it’s kidney cancer. It’s possible that it’s a benign growth and doing a biopsy, or having it surgically removed, would determine the pathology and the type, stage, and grade of the mass and subsequently the next steps required. If the tumour is relatively small and localized (early stage), active surveillance with close monitoring and regular diagnostic tests or surgery to completely remove the tumour if possible are the most common treatments.
Kidney cancer is a unique disease. There’s no cure, but there are many kidney cancer patients living and thriving with no evidence of disease.
The importance of education
There are options of surgery methods, depending on the size, position, and complexity of the tumour. The options of open or laparoscopic, including robotic, surgery and whether a radical (complete removal) or partial (partial removal) nephrectomy is needed are determined and performed by a urologist or uro-oncologist.
When the cancer is more advanced, the types of treatment options are different and immunotherapy drugs offer excellent options for cancer that has spread. Systemic treatment would be prescribed and monitored by an oncologist and could be used in conjunction with surgery or radiation therapy.
Kidney cancer is a unique disease. There’s no cure, but there are many kidney cancer patients living and thriving with no evidence of disease. How the disease and treatment affects one patient can be completely different for another. It’s vital for Canadians diagnosed with or caring for someone with kidney cancer to educate themselves about the disease and the available treatment options so they can make the best possible decisions with their doctor for their individual situation.
Kidney Cancer Canada can provide all needed information and offer patients the opportunity to connect with others who have already been on this cancer journey for peer support. Kidney Cancer Canada also works collaboratively with ELLICSR Kitchen at UHN and The Kidney Foundation of Canada to provide information focused on kidney health for the patient community.
This article was sponsored by one of Canada’s leading research-based pharmaceutical companies.