Knowing Your Risk: Early Signs of Kidney Cancer

What Are the Early Signs of Kidney Cancer?

According to the American Cancer Society, kidney cancer is among the 10 most common cancers in both men and women. However, many people aren’t aware of where their kidneys are located, or their purpose. That’s where we come in! We’re here to help you learn all about the kidneys, and possible early detection signs of kidney cancer, also known as renal cell carcinoma. Continue reading to learn five of the most common early signs of kidney cancer.

The Purpose of Our Kidneys

Your kidneys are two bean shaped organs located in your lower back and tucked underneath your ribs. Although small, the kidneys have a big job to do. The main functions of the kidneys are to:

  • Remove waste products 
  • Remove excess fluid
  • Balance minerals and chemicals
  • Control blood pressure
  • Promote red blood cell production

What Causes Kidney Cancer?

The exact cause of kidney cancer is unknown, however, there are certain factors that will put you more at risk for developing kidney cancer. These risk factors include: 

  • Smoking
  • Obesity
  • High blood pressure 
  • Having a family history of kidney cancer
  • Having advanced kidney disease

There are also genetic and hereditary factors that will increase your chances of developing kidney cancer. These risks include:

  • Von Hippel-Lindau (VHL) syndrome 
  • Birt-Hogg Dube (BHD) syndrome
  • Hereditary leiomyomatosis and renal cell cancer (HLRCC) 
  • Tuberous sclerosis

Related: Kidney Cancer Awareness

Stages of Kidney Cancer

Stage describes how much cancer is in your body. The stage that your kidney cancer is detected in influences what treatment your doctor recommends. For example, a patient that is in stage one kidney cancer, has much less cancer in their body than a patient at stage four kidney cancer, whose cancer has likely spread around the body. Knowing and understanding the stages of your kidney cancer will help you have more informed conversations with your doctor regarding treatment. The four stages of kidney cancer are as follows:

  • Stage one: Tumor is only found in the kidney and is smaller than seven centimeters.
  • Stage two:  Tumor is only found in the kidney and larger than seven centimeters, but has not spread.
  • Stage three: Tumor has grown outside of the kidney, and cancer may or may not have spread to the lymph nodes.
  • Stage 4: The tumor has grown outside the kidney and may be in the adrenal gland, and cancer has spread to distant parts of the body. 

5 Most Common Early Kidney Cancer Symptoms

We know you have questions, and we have the answers. Below are five of the most common early kidney cancer warning signs. If you’re experiencing one or multiple of these symptoms, it’s wise to contact your urologist. Although you may not have cancer, in the event that you do, it will be easier to treat if diagnosed early. 

Learn more: The Most Frequently Asked Questions About Kidney Cancer 

1. Blood in Urine

If you are experiencing blood in your urine (your doctor will refer to this as haematuria), it could be one of the first signs your body gives you that you’ve developed kidney cancer. It’s important to note there could be trace amounts of blood in your urine that you can’t see with the naked eye. In this instance, your urologist will administer a urine test that can pick up on unknown traces of blood. 

2. Pain in Your Back or Side

Aching lower back or side pain that is not associated with any other underlying condition may be an early sign of kidney cancer. Most patients experience it on one side of their back, below their rib cage. Pain can range from feelings of a dull ache, to a sharp stabbing pain. It is important to get in contact with your healthcare provider if you are experiencing this kind of pain, as it can be a sign of kidney cancer. 

3. Anemia

Anemia, also known as low blood cell counts, can be an early detection of kidney cancer. This symptom comes from a lack of production of erythropoietin, a hormone that your kidneys produce to stimulate production of crucial red blood cells. Symptoms of anemia can also lead a patient to feel fatigued. 

4. Weight Loss

Unexplained weight loss is a possible symptom of kidney cancer. A person who has lost weight without actively trying, or whose weight loss is accompanied by fatigue or fever should consult their urologist for diagnosis. Cancerous cells in the kidneys can compete with healthy cells for nutrients, resulting in weight loss without intention.

5. Loss of Appetite 

Loss of appetite is a common symptom among kidney cancer patients. A sudden loss of appetite can be due to growing tumors affecting typical digestion processes. Patients have noted that they just don’t feel hungry, or feel full after eating small portions. If you experience food aversion in combination with any of the symptoms listed above, you should contact your doctor. 

Treating Kidney Cancer at USOC

If you are experiencing any of the symptoms we have discussed in this blog today, you should find your closest USOC location to consult with a urologist. The earlier that kidney cancer is detected, the better chance there is for a treatment that works. 

It’s our hope that this blog serves as a helpful resource as you begin to research the disease. Like many other cancers, you can reduce your risk for kidney cancer by living a healthy lifestyle. For more information on healthy habits that reduce the risk of cancer, download our free Nutrition and Lifestyle Guide below. 

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