Kidney cancer is a silent disease and one of the fastest-growing cancers in the world. The steady rise in the incidence of kidney cancer is becoming a global health risk. It is the 12th most prevalent cancer in the world. World Kidney Cancer day falls on June 17 annually and campaigns are held globally to help spread awareness of this lesser-known cancer. Although most cases occur in developed countries, developing countries like Sri Lanka shouldn’t lower their guard against this cancer as people must expect to face
it sooner or later.
Kidney cancer, also known as Renal Cell Carcinoma (RCC), is a type of cancer that arises from the cells of the kidney and is often detected by chance. Most kidney cancers don’t cause symptoms; they are found incidentally during a scan, X-ray or ultrasound that was ordered for another illness.
Like most cancers, kidney cancer is caused by mutations that accumulate over time in the body. It often arises in older people. Explanations are incomplete, but experts point to risk factors such as ageing, obesity, high blood pressure and smoking.
Medical attention is warranted if you are experiencing any of these signs or symptoms: Blood in the urine (haematuria) or changes in urine colour (dark/rusty or brown colour), Lower back, abdominal or flank pain which is not linked to an injury, sudden and rapid weight loss, newly developed high blood pressure, constant fatigue and fever that is not linked with any other conditions. All of these symptoms can also be caused by other diseases, however, if you have any of these symptoms it is important to see your doctor so you can find out what’s causing them.
Additionally, if there is a history of kidney cancer in your family, it is important to inform the doctor, so that any sign of cancer could be treated early when it is most curable. In rare cases, children can develop kidney cancer. But they usually develop different types of kidney cancer than adults. The most common types of childhood kidney cancer are Wilms tumour and nephroblastoma.
The majority of kidney cancers are initially discovered by scans (ultrasound, CT scan, or MRI), showing something like a lump on the kidney. This alone does not mean it is kidney cancer, however, and it must be examined under the microscope to be diagnosed, and the doctor will order a biopsy. During a biopsy, a thin needle is used to remove some cells from the tumour to see if they are cancerous. Depending on the outcome, doctors decide if surgery is necessary. Up to 20% of small kidney masses (or lumps) are non-cancerous. Kidney cancers that are smaller than 3 cm are unlikely to spread. If you have a larger cancer in the kidney, surgery is usually the first best treatment. The International Kidney Cancer Coalition (IKCC) is an independent international network of patient organisations that focus exclusively on kidney cancer. They are committed to empowering the kidney cancer community through advocacy, awareness, information and research. The IKCC has been arranging campaigns for the last five years, with different themes. The emotional, psychosocial and economic burden of cancer kills more cancer patients than cancer itself, hence this year’s theme is ‘We need to talk about how we’re feeling’.
IKCC works in partnership with several global and regional organisations with a shared interest in improving the lives of people living with cancer. IKCC welcomes organisations that have an interest in kidney cancer to apply to become Affiliate Organisations. More details, learning materials including infographics can be found on their website