Kidney Cancer Treatment Prognosis Stages

Each year, over 50,000 new cases of kidney cancer are diagnosed. While people can develop a variety of types of kidney cancer, the most prevalent type is renal cell cancer (RCC), which affects the kidney tubule, the area of the kidney that filters toxins out of the body to produce urine. In fact, renal cell carcinoma comprises 85 percent of all kidney cancer cases.

Like other types of cancer, kidney cancer has the best prognosis if it is diagnosed in its early stages. While getting regular physicals from your doctor is key to catching kidney cancer before it progresses, so too is understanding the symptoms of each stage of this condition.

Symptoms of Early Stage Kidney Cancer

The early stages of kidney cancer may go unnoticed, as symptoms may be minimal or even nonexistent. In some cases, apparent symptoms may be mistaken for being symptomatic of a different condition. Symptoms of early stage kidney cancer include:

  • a lump or tumor felt in abdomen
  • blood in a person’s urine
  • edema
  • unexplained low back pain
  • unusual weight loss.

The best solution for getting diagnosed promptly is to pay close attention to any physical changes you may be experiencing. As soon as you experience any of the above symptoms, see your doctor.

To diagnose or rule out the possibility of kidney cancer, your doctor will perform a series of tests, including:

  • a urinalysis to detect whether there are abnormal cells in the urine
  • an ultrasound, CT scan, MRI or other imaging test to see if or where abnormal cells are forming
  • biopsy to see if the abnormal cells are malignant.

After performing these tests, your doctor will be able to make a proper diagnosis that also defines the stage to which your kidney cancer has progressed.

Stages of Kidney Cancer

Kidney cancer progresses in four stages, which denote how far the cancer has spread into surrounding tissues or organs. Treatment options and survival rates often depend on how far the cancer has spread. The stages of kidney cancer include:

  • Stage I, the mildest stage of kidney cancer, describes cases in which the malignant cells only affect the kidney.
  • Stage II indicates a spread of the cancer into the fatty tissue around the kidney.
  • Stage III means that the cancer has spread into the lymph nodes and blood vessels surrounding the kidney.
  • Stage IV, the final stage of kidney cancer, indicates that the cancer has metastasized (spread) to invade nearby organs.

Unfortunately, symptoms and stages of kidney cancer may not necessarily go hand in hand. Early stages may even go undetected because little, if any, symptoms exist.

Kidney Cancer Stages - Kidney Cancer

As the cancer progresses, it can begin to affect other organs. Like other types of cancer, kidney cancer can spread through the bloodstream and/or the lymphatic system. It’s in these later stages that symptoms are particularly pronounced, especially if the cancer spreads to other organs and starts affecting the body’s natural processes.

Kidney Cancer Prognosis

The survival rates associated with kidney cancer depend on how far the condition has progressed, the size of the tumor and whether or not it has metastasized. While the five-year survival rate for small kidney tumors (i.e., those that are less than 4 cm in diameter) is 90 percent to 95 percent, patients with larger tumors that haven’t metastasized still have a good five-year survival rate that ranges between 80 percent and 85 percent.

If, however, the cancer has spread to the connective tissue that surrounds the kidneys, survival rates drop to 60 percent. When tumors start to invade the lymph nodes, patients have a 5 percent to 15 percent survival rate. In the worst cases, when the cancer has metastasized to other organs in the body, the survival rate is falls below 5 percent.

Treating Renal Cancer

Treatments for kidney cancer can range from completely removing the cancer-ridden kidney (nephrectomy) to using the current range of cancer treatments, such as radiation therapy or chemotherapy. However, in most cases, RCC doesn’t respond as well to chemo as other forms of cancer.

Arterial embolization, which cuts blood flow off to the affected area in an attempt to stop tumor growth, is another treatment option for kidney cancer. Some new medications, such as Sutent®, offer the same benefit, choking off cancer cells and helping reduce the size of the tumor.


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