I recently saw a 66 year old gentleman for evaluation of anemia. He had a great appetite, exercised regularly and led an active lifestyle. He denied noticing any blood in his stools, but he recalled noticing a small amount blood in his urine that had occurred only twice over the past 4 months. He did not think much of it since it had been several weeks since the last episode and he felt well otherwise. Due to his history of blood in the urine, I ordered a CT scan which showed a two-inch mass in his right kidney which was very suspicious for kidney cancer. He had surgery with removal of his right kidney containing the cancer. He had additional studies that fortunately showed no spread of his cancer elsewhere. His chance of cure from his stage I kidney cancer is about 80% and he will continue to be monitored periodically. Fortunately, he will not need any further treatments and can be followed along with observation.
Just like the gentleman above, people can have blood in the urine from a kidney cancer. It can also cause other symptoms such as abdominal or flank pain, fever or weight loss. In many people kidney cancer causes no symptoms and is detected if someone is having a scan done for other reasons.
If caught early, kidney cancer can be cured by surgically removing part or all of the affected kidney. Did you know that kidney cancer is one of few cancers where we also have multiple non-chemotherapy biologic treatments? Advanced kidney cancer was traditionally treated with an immune therapy called Interleukin-2 which unfortunately has many side effects. However, since 2006 we now have multiple other non-chemotherapy medicines for treatment of advanced kidney cancer called targeted therapy. They work directly on the cancer cell and block the growth and spread of cancer cells. Many of these treatments are in a pill form and generally well tolerated.
While we don’t know why some people develop certain cancers, it is important to be proactive and do whatever we can to reduce our risk for developing cancer. Once such modifiable risk factor for kidney cancer is cigarette smoking. Stopping smoking can lower one’s risk for developing this and many other cancers. Obesity and high blood pressure are also risk factors for kidney cancer. Please make a conscious effort to cut down on animal fat intake, increase intake of daily fruits and vegetables and start on a regular exercise program. These simple changes in your daily life will go a long way in preventing many cancers and other health problems.
Dr. Priya Rudolph, a graduate from Yale University is an experienced hematologist/oncologist with Georgia Cancer Specialists affiliated with Northside Hospital Cancer Institute (www.gacancer.com). She has offices in Athens (ph 706-369-4478) and in Greensboro (Ph 706 454-0159). Georgia Cancer Specialists is a top 10 privately owned practice and is a national leader in advanced cancer treatment and research. Its physicians and staff offer many clinical trials and state of the art personalized care to each individual patient.