Kidney cancer is one of the ten most common cancers in men and women, according to the American Cancer Society. If you or someone you know has been diagnosed, you probably have several questions. That is completely normal! Take some time to learn the basics. Read on for a simple guide.


Step 1: Know what kidney cancer is

Kidney cancer, or renal cancer, develops when kidney cells become cancerous and form a tumor that usually shows up in the lining of the tubules in the kidneys, two fist-sized organs in the lower abdomen. Most are found before they metastasize to other organs; however, the tumors can grow large before they're detected.

Step 1 Know what kidney cancer is


Step 2: Recognize the symptoms

Symptoms often appear when the tumor gets bigger. Symptoms include loss of appetite, blood in your urine, a constant side pain, a lump in your abdomen, unidentifiable weight loss, a long-lasting fever, anemia, extreme fatigue and leg swelling.


Step 3: Know that there are risk factors

Although the cause is unknown, medical professionals have identified several risk factors that contribute to the cancer's development, including smoking, obesity, certain medications, particular genetic conditions, family history, being male, being over the age of 40, certain chemicals, high blood pressure and having lymphoma.


Step 4: Do something about it

Cancer isn’t something you self-diagnose (obviously). See your doctor! When you do, you’ll need to have a physical exam and a series of tests done. Most likely, one or more of the following tests will be conducted: CT scan, urine test, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), intravenous pyelogram (IVP) or a renal arteriogram.

Step 4 Do something about it


Step 5: Distinguish the stages

If your doctor says you’re in Stage I, your tumor is only in the kidney, and it’s 7 centimeters or less. If you’re in Stage II, your tumor hasn’t moved from the kidney but is bigger than 7 centimeters. If you’re in Stage III, your tumor is in the kidney and at least one lymph node, in the kidney’s main blood vessel, extends into major veins or it's in fatty tissue. Stage IV means it's spread to other organs, beyond the kidney’s fatty tissue or beyond Gerota’s fascia.


Step 6: Develop a treatment plan

Your treatment will depend on your diagnosis and stage. Your doctor might refer you to a specialist such as an oncologist, an urologist or a surgeon. Most likely, surgery will happen first. Even if the surgery gets the whole tumor, most doctors will suggest doing more to kill any cancer cells that may still be hiding away.


Step 7: Be informed on the surgeries

There are three main types of surgery: Radical nephrectomy, simple nephrectomy and partial nephrectomy. Radical nephrectomy removes the adrenal gland, the kidney and surrounding tissues and lymph nodes (sometimes). A simple one removes the kidney, and a partial one removes cancer in the kidney and some surrounding tissue.

Step 7 Be informed on the surgeries


Step 8: Don’t forget the therapies

Usual therapies include biologic, targeted, radiation and chemotherapy. Expect drugs that target cancer cells, interferon alpha, high-energy X-rays and other types of radiation. Your doctor will help you decide which is right for your body.


Step 9: Practice prevention techniques

Preventing kidney cancer is difficult because the cause is unknown. Nevertheless, there are a few things you can do to help keep it at bay such as manage your blood pressure, stop smoking and maintain a healthy weight.