Disease Awareness: Kidney Cancer

news Mar 06, 2020

March is Kidney Cancer Awareness Month!

Ever since the 1990s, kidney and renal pelvis cancers have been on the rise, most likely due to advances in imaging and diagnostic testing, finding cancers that may have gone unnoticed and untreated previously. Kidney cancer ranks among the top ten most common cancers in the US, with an estimate by the American Cancer Society of 73,750 new cases and 14,830 deaths in 2020.

The average age for diagnosis of kidney cancer in a patient is around 64, with most being diagnosed between the ages of 65-74. Men are twice as likely to develop kidney cancer than women, and it is twice as likely to develop in African American and Native American populations vs. other populations in the US.

There are several risk factors that increase the chances of developing kidney cancer, many of which are shared among other types of cancers, while some are completely unique. Smoking, obesity, high blood pressure, genetics, and workplace exposures to certain carcinogenic substances are all common factors that will increase your risk of kidney cancer.

Some risks more specific to kidney cancer include: certain medication use (some studies suggest a correlation between the use of analgesics such as acetaminophen and non-aspirin NSAIDs and kidney cancer), a family history of renal cell cancer, and diseases including, but not limited to, advanced kidney disease, von Hippel-Lindau disease, hereditary papillary renal cell carcinoma, hereditary leiomyoma-renal cell carcinoma, Birt-Hogg-Dube (BHD) syndrome, Cowden syndrome, and Tuberous sclerosis.

Problematically, people who develop kidney cancer may be at a disadvantage of discovering the disease early if they are not in a high-risk population; tumors of the kidney can grow without a patient noticing, smaller tumors may not be felt during a routine physical, and there are no recommended screening tests for those not at risk.

Some common signs and symptoms of kidney cancer are: lower back pain or pressure, a mass on the side or lower back, fatigue, anemia, lower appetite or weight loss, hematuria, and/or unrelenting fever. While many of these problems are caused by other medical problems, seeking medical advice/treatment from your doctor is strongly recommended!

Treatment for kidney cancer has changed drastically over the past few years with evolving surgical and radiation techniques, as well as systemic agents like tyrosine kinase inhibitors and immunotherapy. theMednet is a great example of a tool helping oncologists answer challenging questions in the realm of kidney cancer, especially when their patients don't neatly fit into NCCN guidelines. Some recent questions on controversial issues include:

How do you manage TKI induced secondary polycythemia in a patient with RCC?

How do you treat elderly or frail patients with metastatic RCC?

What is the protocol for stopping TKI used in RCC prior to a surgery?

Is there a preferred sequence of therapy in renal cell carcinoma?

With experts from top cancer centers such as Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, Cleveland Clinic, and Dana Farber Cancer Institute weighing in, theMednet allows oncologists around the country access to expert knowledge that helps kidney cancer patients get better care wherever they are treated.  

Brendan Bense

Brendan is an Editorial Assistant at theMednet, and an author for theMednet Blog. He's a Philly native, with a passion for technology, creative writing, and travel.