Standing at the 13th most frequent cancer type worldwide, kidney damage is one of the prevailing cancers among adults. Each year, it is reported that 55.000 Americans receive a diagnosis with one of the types of kidney cancer; and according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, 1 in 4 of them will lose their life to the disease.
Like many types of cancer, the main agents causing kidney cancer are obesity, smoking, and high blood pressure. It is diagnosed before the age of 60 in half of the cases. It is also a silent disease during which the development of the tumor is not accompanied by pain or discomfort in the early stages of the disease. However, when left untreated, the tissues carrying the cancer can continue to grow and invade the surrounding tissues. What follows are subtle signs of Kidney Cancer You Should be aware of:
Your back or sides hurt
Back pain is a common complaint of people older than 40 years. It is also not a main indictor since only 40% of people with this cancer report the pain in these areas. The pain that is a characteristic of kidney cancer can be anything from a dull ache, to a sharp stab below the ribs on your back. Most people however, only experience back pain when the cancer is in the later stages. According to Dr. Kaouk, a certified urologist: “The kidney mass would have to be large and pressing into other surrounding tissues for you to feel pain” and he adds that in many cases, “discovery of the kidney tumor is incidental”.
There’s blood in your urine.
As stated previously, kidney cancer does not give off many symptoms in its early stages. However, in its advanced-stages, blood in the urine is a well-known sign of kidney cancer and according to DR. Kaouk “if there’s excess bleeding, the blood can look bright and fresh”. Blood in the urine can vary in consistency, appearing about every other day. Sometimes the amount of blood is so small it is not easy to detect without a urinalysis. Nonetheless, Even a small amount of blood can alter the color of urine to pink, brownish, or even red.
You’re always tired
If you’ve just read the title of this symptom and suspected you have this cancer, do not worry just yet! Make sure you inform your doctor first as this symptom is non restricted to this disease. Kidney cancer and about 100 other diseases come with a feeling of constant fatigue according to the American Cancer Society.
Fatigue caused by cancer is persistent and interferes with daily activities and it is not to be confused with slight exhaustion. About 70 to 100 percent of people going with the treatment for this cancer report fatigue and that it can feel worse as time goes on. Many people with kidney cancer report fatigue as the most difficult symptom to manage.
You’re shedding weight
Similar to previous symptoms, weight loss or fluctuations in weight are not limited to kidney cancer, and about 28 percent of people with this cancer report weight loss. Kaouk says ‘Your kidneys play an important role in digestion and metabolism’. Hence, if they are not functioning well, they will not be able to breakdown food components, absorb nutrients, or dispose of food waste. The body exhibits these changes through weight loss, loss in appetite, or both. This usually happens abruptly, as the tumor spreads to other organs.
Your blood becomes deficient
Dr. Kaouk says that Kidney tumors can lead to anemia, electrolyte or calcium imbalances, and other blood-related issues. About 21 percent of people with kidney cancer suffer from anemia, or low red blood cell count. Your kidneys normally give your body a signal to make red blood cells. Cancer can stand in the way of that signaling, it can also cause worsening fatigue, dizziness, shortness of breath, and pale looking skin. However, it is important to note that these issues are not solely a result of kidney cancer. If they do appear, It is highly unlikely that they are caused by kidney cancer. It is important to note that when in doubt or if you are worried, you should consult your doctor at once.
What after a kidney cancer diagnosis?
When you are diagnosed with kidney cancer, your doctors should try and get rid of the masses of infected cells. This takes place during a surgical procedure known as a “nephrectomy”, which is the main and most effective way of treating this disease. Kaouk puts in in simpler words by saying ‘we remove the cancerous part, and leave the good part’.
Overall, every case stands on its own, and in the case where cancer is caught early, doctors are usually very hopeful and expect the outcomes of getting rid of it to be excellent. Kaouk adds that kidney cancer is not as aggressive as many other types of cancer and can be treated even if not diagnosed on the spot.