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Early detection of renal carcinoma

The incidence of renal cell carcinoma has escalated in the last decade. In fact, in the UK alone, the prevalence of renal cell carcinoma has risen by 47 percent in the last ten years, while kidney cancer is one of the most frequently occurring cancer in Europe. According to experts like Best urologist in Lahore, by the year 2035, renal cell carcinoma is expected to become the fourth most common cancer in the world. Read on to know more about renal cell carcinoma and its early detection:

Can renal cell carcinoma be detected early?

Renal cell carcinomas can remain undetected because kidneys are deep inside the body and therefore, small tumors are not felt on abdominal examination by healthcare expert or by the patient. Moreover, many types of renal cell carcinomas do not produce any symptoms—like pain, early on in the disease. Additionally, there are no screening tests for renal cell carcinoma in low risk patients, which presents a challenge for early detection. 

Renal cell carcinomas are often found by accident during imaging for some other complaint. 

For people with increased risk of renal cell carcinoma, such as those with inherited von Hippel-Lindau disease, healthcare experts recommend getting regular imaging investigations like abdomino-pelvic ultrasound, computed tomography (CT), and magnetic resonance imagining (MRI) from a young age. If detected early, renal cell carcinoma is treatable with high survival rates. 

What are the signs and symptoms of kidney cancer?

The earliest symptom most often for renal cell carcinoma is hematuria—blood in the urine. This can be detected on routine urine analysis if microscopic, or the patient himself, can complain of seeing blood in the urine if there is gross hematuria. 

Often, there is unexplained anemia in the patient due to massive hematuria or lack of erythropoietin in the body. Erythropoietin is secreted by the kidney and encourages the production of red blood cells. In case of renal cell carcinoma, erythropoietin production is affected, with resultant anemia. Unexplained weight loss, appetite loss, and fatigue are also common in kidney cancer. 

If the tumor is large, it can be felt as a mass in the lower back. Renal cell carcinoma often causes unexplained pain in the lower back, without any history of trauma. 

Staging of renal cell carcinoma

After the diagnosis of kidney cancer, the next step is figuring out the stage of the disease. This involves finding the size of the tumor, involvement of the lymph nodes and the extent of spread. Staging a cancer helps healthcare experts figuring out the prognosis and treatment regimen. 

There are four stages of renal cell carcinoma. Benign cancers have a lower number, while stage IV refers to widespread cancer. 

Stage one: is when the cancer is 7 cm in size and confined to the kidney with no lymph node involvement. 

Stage two: refers to renal cell carcinoma more than 7 cm in size, but confined to the kidney. 

Stage three: is when the tumor involves a major vein like the vena cava or the renal vein, but not the adrenal gland. There is still no spread to distant organs, but nearby lymph nodes may be involved (N1). 

Stage four: disease involves growth of tumor outside the primary organ—including the adrenal gland, with spread to nearby and distant lymph nodes. 

How to reduce the risk of renal cell carcinoma?

The exact cause of kidney cancer is not known yet, and therefore, preventable factors cannot be pinpointed. However, there are some ways to reduce the risk of renal cell carcinoma. These include: smoking cessation and weight loss. 

Cigarette smoke is responsible for a large percentage of renal cell carcinomas and therefore, stopping to smoke can greatly reduce the risk of cancer. Occupational hazards of renal cell carcinoma include exposure to substance like trichloroethylene. Avoiding exposure to the latter and using protective equipment are, therefore, helpful.

Obesity and consequent hypertension also increase the odds of renal cell carcinoma. Therefore, experts like Best urologist in Karachi recommend maintaining healthy weight-for-height and incorporating a diet rich in fresh fruits and vegetables for mitigating the risk.   

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