Kidney Cancer - Medical Malpractice Lawyers

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Kidney Cancer - Medical Malpractice

Kidney cancer is also known as renal cell carcinoma, renal cancer, adenocarcinoma of the kidneys or hypernephroma. It is a type of cancer that initially forms in the small tubules of the kidney-the part of the kidneys that filters the blood into urine. There are other forms of kidney cancer but these are far less common than renal tubular carcinoma.

The age kidney cancer usually occurs is between 50 and 70 years of age and the exact cause of the condition is not known. The risk factors for having renal cancer include having had dialysis in the past (or in the present time), genetic factors with a family history of the condition, having high blood pressure, smoking history, a horseshoe kidney (a birth defect) or having von Hippel-Lindau disease, which is a hereditary condition that affects blood capillaries of the eyes, brain, kidneys and other body areas.

There can be no or very few symptoms of kidney cancer in the beginning. As the cancer grows and puts pressure on the retroperitoneal tissue, it can cause abdominal or back pain, depending on the location of the cancer. The kidneys are located toward the back of the abdomen so back pain is not out of the question. Blood in the urine is likely as the kidney tissue begins to break down and get replaced by cancerous tissue. The veins around the testicle can enlarge due to back pressure from the cancer on the veins. This is called a varicocele. Flank pain is likely as the kidneys are located in the flank area. The abdomen itself can enlarge or fill with fluid. You can have an unintentional loss of weight from the effect of the cancer on metabolism of the body.

Less common symptoms of kidney cancer include cold intolerance, excessive hair growth in females, pale skin, constipation and problems with vision. In some cases the cancer metastasizes to the other kidney and both kidneys become involved with cancer. This can increase the number and degree of symptoms the person has. Kidney cancer spreads quite easily and can also spread to the lungs and liver, among other organs. The cancer has spread to other body areas by the time of diagnosis in about a third of cases.

Doctors diagnose kidney cancer through a careful history and physical examination. He or she may note a mass in the area of the kidneys or in the liver area. Men will often have a varicocele in the testicular area, and this is suspicious if it is only on the right side. Specific tests that can be done to confirm the diagnosis of kidney disease include a CT scan of the abdomen, complete blood chemistries which might show kidney failure, a CBC and an intravenous pyelogram or IVP, which is a dye and x-ray study of the kidneys and renal system. Liver function tests should be done along with arteriography of the kidneys. In some cases, an ultrasound of the abdomen and kidneys can show areas of cancer. The urinalysis may show cancerous cells in the kidneys.

If there is concern that the cancer has spread, doctors need to perform an abdominal CT scan or MRI scan, a bone scan, chest x-ray or PET scan.

The treatment of renal cancer begins with removal of all or a portion of the kidneys to include removing the entire cancer. The bladder may have to be removed as do surrounding lymph nodes. Sometimes it pays off to remove the metastases as well in order to save the person's life. This only works if there are a few metastases noted. Radiation therapy is not a good treatment for kidney cancer because it is not very successful. Certain hormone treatments can be done to slow the growth of kidney cancer. Chemotherapy is not very effective for kidney cancer either. Doctors use interleukin-2 to help the body's own immune system fight the cancer. There are some newer treatments for kidney cancer including Nexavar, Sutent and Torisel. Biological treatments like Avastin seem to have some positive effect against kidney cancer cells.

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The author of the substantive medical writing on this website is Dr. Christine Traxler MD whose biography can be read here