If you’ve been diagnosed with kidney cancer or are worried you may be, we want to help. At Central Maine Healthcare, we’re committed to providing you compassionate, high-quality cancer care. Our Central Maine Comprehensive Cancer Center offers the most advanced imaging technology available, a full range of treatment options, and support services to help you along the way.
About Kidney Cancer
Kidney cancer – also known as renal cancer – is among the top 10 most common cancers for men and women. The rate of new kidney cancer diagnosis has risen as it is being detected more frequently through CT scans. When caught early, it is treatable and the number of survivors in remission has grown.
The disease starts when the cells of the kidneys mutate and form a tumor. Sometimes multiple tumors can form, break off and move into different parts of the body.
There are two main types of kidney cancer:
- Renal cell carcinoma is the most common type of kidney cancer and accounts for about 90 percent of cancerous tumors. It starts in the lining of very small tubes in the kidney.
- Wilms’ tumor may develop in young children but is rare.
Kidney cancer does not usually cause signs or symptoms in the early stages, and there are currently no routine screening tests. In the later stages, kidney cancer signs and symptoms could include blood in the urine, back pain that won’t go away, loss of appetite, unexplained weight loss, chronic fatigue and intermittent fevers.
Researchers aren’t sure exactly what causes kidney cancer, but there are things that can increase your risk. These are known as risk factors and include:
- Older age
- High blood pressure / hypertension
- Kidney failure treatment / dialysis
- Inherited syndromes like von Hippel-Lindau, Birt-Hogg-Dube syndrome, and tuberous sclerosis
- Family history of kidney cancer
- Frequent exposure to cadmium or specific herbicides
There best preventative measures include taking steps to improve your current health:
- Quit smoking
- Maintain a healthy weight
- Control high blood pressure
Detection and Diagnosis
Kidney cancer is usually detected at more advanced stages because it can grow quite large before causing discomfort or pain. Tumors are also difficult to detect in a standard physical because the kidneys are deep inside the body. The majority of cases where kidney cancer is caught early on scans, the patient was being tested because they were suffering from symptoms of other kidney issues. If you are not at increased risk, then putting yourself through frequent CT scans or MRIs is not recommended.
If you find that you have kidney cancer, rest assured you have some of central Maine’s best experts by your side. Our dedicated team—including board-certified urologic surgeons, medical and radiation oncologists and more specialists—works closely with you to create a personalized treatment plan.
Surgery to remove of all or part of the kidney is the main treatment for most kidney cancers and may include removing the surrounding tissues or lymph nodes. Until recently, kidney removal could only be accomplished through a surgical procedure called open or partial nephrectomies. This procedure requires a large, muscle-cutting abdominal incision, removal of a rib and a relatively longer hospital stay and recovery period.
Fortunately, new minimally invasive techniques now make the procedure much easier for patients. At Central Maine Comprehensive Cancer Center, we offer laparoscopic surgery, which allows your surgeon to perform an operation that results in significantly less pain and a faster recovery.
Chemotherapy & Radiation Therapy
Chemotherapy and radiation therapy are generally not effective for treating kidney cancer, but immunotherapy may help some patients by increasing their body’s immune response in the setting of metastatic disease.
If you have a family history of kidney or renal cancer, it is possible to test for hereditary cancer syndromes. Central Maine Comprehensive Cancer Center’s genetic counselors can work with you and your doctors to determine if you are at risk for certain cancers and steps that should be taken to prevent cancer cells and tumors.
Throughout your journey, you’ll find a variety of cancer support services to meet your physical, emotional, spiritual and financial needs. That includes your very own nurse navigator to coordinate all of your care, answer any questions and provide extra comfort and support every step of the way.