The kidneys, located behind the abdomen in the lower back, are responsible for filtering impurities from the blood and regulate blood pressure. Cancer is an aberrant growth of cells that the body’s immune system does not recognize as abnormal. Cancer cells grow in clusters referred to as tumors and these have what is known as a “doubling factor” where each cell in the tumor doubles at the same time. This is why a patient often feels perfectly normal one day and then begins experiencing symptoms the next.
Many symptoms of kidney cancer are frequently mistaken for other problem, often leading to misdiagnoses. Because there are several types of kidney cancers, the various forms of the disease can present with different symptoms and will often times not show any signs at all until the latter stages. In fact, many kidney cancers are discovered by accident during an exam, such as a CAT scan, for a seemingly unrelated matter. Here is a list of the most commonly observed symptoms of kidney cancer to watch out for:
This is the term for blood in the urine and almost always a sign that something is not right. Hematuria due to kidney cancer is usually intermittent over a period of days or weeks and is commonly painless. Blood is frequently present during urination from start to finish. However, kidney cancer is fairy rare and there are other reasons for Hematuria. While you should see you, healthcare provider, as soon as possible, don’t just assume the worst.
2) Loss of Appetite
Loss of appetite is a common symptom for many types of cancers due to metabolic changes or cancer spreading to the stomach and causing the patient to have a feeling of fullness. Loss of appetite can be severe enough that patients are not even interested in their favorite foods.
3) Unusual Fatigue and Weakness
Weight loss is often accompanied by weakness and fatigue, which may be the cause or the result of the loss of appetite. Once kidney cancer metastasis or spreads, extreme fatigue and weakness usually result with the patient reporting they are constantly tired. Performing even the simplest physical tasks can leave them physically spent.
4) Weight Loss
Going hand in hand with a loss of appetite is weight loss and just under 40 percent of patients diagnosed with any type of cancer report unexplained weight loss as their first symptom. Weight loss occurs in almost 80 percent of advanced cases of cancer.
Anemia is the result of not enough hemoglobin, or healthy red blood cells, in the blood. As the kidneys are responsible for filtering toxins from the blood, kidney cancer often causes this type of imbalance in the blood cells and the cells are not able to receive adequate amounts of oxygen.
Because the organs are located adjacent to the lumbar region, people with kidney cancer may notice lumps in the lower back area. These lumps, or tumors, can grow to be large enough to feel on their back or side. If you notice this symptom, see your healthcare provider as soon as possible.
Typically, no type of cancer causes any pain symptoms in the early stages. It is not until the tumor has grown large enough to begin putting pressure on nerves that the pain occurs. With renal cancer pain may present in the sides, lower back, and/or pubic area. Oftentimes pain is caused by the tumor impinging on the utter, the tubes that transport urine to the bladder.
Kidney cancer can result in muscle aches accompanied by joint pain. This is due to the body’s immune system producing antibodies to kill the invading cancer cells. This can cause soreness as the antibodies accumulate and begin penetrating the muscle fibers. The immune system will at some point stop producing antibodies and the soreness will abate, at least temporarily.
The immune system also releases cytokine proteins that create inflammation in the joints. This can result in anything from minor to major pain when flexing the joints. Cytokines can also intensify kidney-cancer symptoms like back pain. Patients with diseases like arthritis will often notice a severe increase in pain.
8) Reduced Urine flow
As noted above, if the tumor grows into the utter it can block flow to the bladder. This will in turn cause a reduction in urine flow.
9) Fever and/or Chills
Kidney cancer causes either intermittent or persistent fever. Fevers are the result of pathogens in the body that cause the brain to produce pyrogen proteins that stimulate the central-nervous-system that in turn raise the basal temperature in the body resulting in a fever. However, cancer patients may not develop a fever due to a bacterial infection or a virus. If the diseased kidneys cause a change in pyrogen activity that can result in an explainable intermittent fever. If kidney cancer is not detected, the patient's healthcare provided may prescribe drugs to combat a virus or bacterial infection. However, these treatments will have no effect on fever.
Patients may also have chills that alternate with fever. The severity of chills typically depends on the magnitude of the fever with the higher the fever the more severe the chills will be. This is because the body is continually trying to “reset” its internal temperature and it isn’t quite able to catch up, resulting in wild temperature swings.
Detection and Treatment
Because kidney cancer often progresses with no symptoms at first and is very hard to cure once it advances, early detection is imperative to increase the odds of a successful course of treatment. Depending on how far the cancer has advanced when discovered, either partial or complete removal of the diseased kidney is indicated. Because lymph nodes are designed to stop the spread of disease, nodes adjacent to the kidney may also need to be removed as well if they show signs of being infected. Radiation and chemotherapy drugs are also indicated in many cases. Contact your healthcare provider if you are experiencing any of the above-listed symptoms.
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