Like a lot of cancers, kidney cancer diagnosis and detection can present a lot of challenges because the disease can show few or no symptoms during the early stages. Also since a lot of the symptoms are generic rather than specific and because they can vary greatly from person to person, indentifying the symptoms of kidney cancer can be difficult.
Risk Factors of kidney cancer
Knowing the risk factors of this cancer can make a person more vigilant about identifying the symptoms of kidney cancer, which are:
1. Lifestyle reasons
Those who smoke and/or are obese are more at risk of kidney cancer. Occupations that mean exposure to asbestos, certain herbicides, cadmium, benzene or trichloroethylene are another risk factor.
2. Genetics, gender and race
Those who have a family history of kidney cancer are at higher risk of getting the cancer. Men are twice as likely as women to get the disease and should watch out for the symptoms of kidney cancer.
The disease is most common among men between the ages of 50 and 70 years of age. African Americans are also at a slightly higher risk of the disease.
3. Certain diseases and conditions
Conditions such as von Hippel-Lindau disease, hereditary papillary renal cell carcinoma, hereditary leiomyoma-renal cell carcinoma, Birt-Hogg-Dube (BHD) syndrome or hereditary renal oncocytoma increase risk of the disease as well. Those who have high blood pressure or advanced kidney disease are also more at risk of kidney cancer.
Diuretics are associated with increased kidney cancer risk, but this could be due to preexisting hypertension in those who are prescribed diuretics. Phenacetin, an over the counter pain reliever which has been banned is another risk factor.
Symptoms of kidney cancer
Though early stages of the cancer could remain asymptomatic, the following are the symptoms that most commonly warn of the presence of the disease:
1. Blood in the urine
This is the most common of the kidney disease symptoms. However sometimes, the blood may not be obvious to the naked eye and may have to be confirmed by a lab test.
2. Pain in the abdomen
Most often the pain manifests in the lower back, usually on one side, which is the side that the affected kidney is located. The pain may be on the side at the back and just below the ribs which is persistent and doesn’t go away.
3. Lump or mass in the abdomen
This may not be evident when the person palpates themselves but could reveal itself in a clinical examination.
4. Other symptoms
Since blood pressure is closely connected with the proper functioning of the kidneys, hypertension or high blood pressure is often one of the symptoms of kidney cancer. There could also be swelling of the feet and ankles (edema).
5. General Symptoms
A person may feel generally unwell or may have symptoms such as fever, chronic fatigue, or may experience sudden or unexplained loss of weight.
If any of the above symptoms are experienced, it is important to consult a doctor which will evaluate whether these are symptoms of kidney cancer or whether there is some other cause for the symptoms.