Kidney cancer begins when healthy cells in one or both kidneys change and grow out of control, forming a mass called a renal cortical tumor. Tumors can be malignant, meaning cancerous, or benign, a tumor that can grow but will not spread. Although not as publicized as other forms of cancer, kidney cancer is among the 10 most common cancers in both men and women. To help reduce this statistic, here are 5 warning signs of kidney cancer to keep an eye out for.
Blood in the urine, also known as hematuria, is the most common symptom of kidney cancer. Blood does not always make urine look bright red, sometimes a pink, orange or muddy color can also indicate hematuria. The presence of blood can be inconsistent, appearing about every other day. In other cases, the amount of blood is so small that it can only be detected during a urinalysis, which is why it is important to see a doctor if you notice any changes when urinating. Other more common causes of blood in the urine include kidney stones, cysts, and bladder or kidney infections.
Lower Back Pain
The kidneys are located directly below your back ribs, which is why it is not uncommon when they become inflamed or infected that this is where you may feel the most pain. As kidney cancer progresses and the tumor grows, pressure can build up on the surrounding nerves. The pain can range from a dull ache to a sharp stab on one side of your lower back or below the ribs on your back. The most significant aspect is how long the pain lasts. Many patients may report back pain but most don’t experience any discomfort until the cancer is in the later stages. See a doctor if you have any sudden pain that lasts more than a few days.
Sometimes inflammation or a growth on the kidney will press forward, causing a lump to protrude from the side of your abdomen. In some cases, the lump will create a visible bulge or thickened area that can be felt from the outside. Because the kidneys sit deep in the abdomen, you may not even see or feel the lump as the tumor grows. Lumps are usually undetectable without an ultrasound or CT scan to get a better look at it. In most cases, a biopsy will be needed to confirm the diagnosis. Lumps should never be ignored, but keep in mind that they can signal a variety of conditions, not necessarily cancer.
Anemia and Fatigue
Fatigue is one of the most common symptoms of any type of cancer. In general, cancer gradually weakens energy and interferes with your metabolism, leading to lower red blood cell count and persistent exhaustion. Fatigue can also be triggered or worsened by other common cancer symptoms such as insomnia, anemia, and depression. Normally your kidneys signal your body to make red blood cells, but cancer can interfere with this signaling. Cancer-related fatigue is persistent and interferes with daily activities. Fatigue from cancer is different than just feeling tired from lack of sleep and can intensify as time goes on. Make an appointment with your doctor if you are feeling unusually tired to test for the cause.
Loss of Appetite
Avoiding certain foods, experiencing a change in taste, and loss of appetite can be explained by allergies or illness, but they can also point to a bigger issue. As cancer grows in the body, your metabolism begins to change. Nausea can begin to surface, fatigue leads to inactivity, and a lowered red blood cell count from anemia drains energy. All of these can leave you feeling less hungry and less interested in food. In some cases of kidney cancer, a loss of appetite will come with a persistent low-grade fever, and the general discomfort can even make your favorite foods unpalatable.
Urology Oncology in NJ
Fortunately, many cases of kidney cancer are now caught early on, thanks to good patient reporting and routine imaging tests. Some individuals are more likely to develop complications over others, and these kidney cancer risk factors include smoking, obesity, high blood pressure, and age. If you or someone you know has been experiencing any of the symptoms or fits the criteria for increased risk factors, give us a call at 973-251-2055 for a complete exam. Dr. Israeli and his team are dedicated to ensuring all patients receive the kidney cancer treatments they need. Contact us to learn more about kidney cancer and the other services our team provides.