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Kidney cancer is more common in men than it is in women: men have a 1 in 48 chance of developing the disease, while women have a 1 in 83 chance1https://www.cancer.org/cancer/kidney-cancer/about/key-statistics.html.
The most common type of kidney cancer is known as renal cell carcinoma (RCC). RCC comprises of about 90% of all kidney cancer cases, and though it generally manifests as a singular tumor in one kidney, there can also be two or more tumors in a kidney or tumors in both kidneys concurrently 2https://www.cancer.org/cancer/kidney-cancer/about/what-is-kidney-cancer.html.
Common kidney cancer screening techniques include MRIs, ultrasounds, PET scans, and CT scans 3https://www.cancer.org/cancer/kidney-cancer/about/what-is-kidney-cancer.html. PET and CT scans, however, expose you to potentially harmful radiation4https://www.mayoclinic.org/tests-procedures/pet-scan/about/pac-20385078 5https://www.fda.gov/radiation-emitting-products/medical-x-ray-imaging/what-are-radiation-risks-ct. In addition, MRI has been shown to have higher specificity than CT in detecting kidney lesions6https://www.cancer.org/cancer/kidney-cancer/about/what-is-kidney-cancer.html.
Early on, kidney cancer rarely presents any symptoms, but larger iterations of the disease could. Possible signs could include7https://www.cancer.org/cancer/kidney-cancer/detection-diagnosis-staging/signs-and-symptoms.html:
These symptoms can also be related to other, benign conditions.
If you are having any of the above symptoms you need to talk to a doctor about the appropriate diagnostic work up. The Ezra scan is a screening test for asymptomatic individuals and it is not designed to diagnose existing or suspected cancers.
It is difficult for researchers to pinpoint precisely what causes kidney cancer, though they do know that kidney cancer originates in genetic changes, or mutations, found in the DNA of normal kidney cells. Sometimes, these mutations can occur in oncogenes or tumor suppressor genes, which are the genes in charge of when cells grow, divide, or die. Such mutations can at least in part be responsible for cancer and can be inherited from one’s parents or be picked up randomly during one’s life. Furthermore, some kidney cancer risk factors are known to sometimes cause changes specifically in kidney cell DNA8https://www.cancer.org/cancer/kidney-cancer/causes-risks-prevention/what-causes.html.
Inherited genetic mutations are associated with a small percent of kidney cancers. Some mutations associated with an increased risk are9https://www.cancer.org/cancer/kidney-cancer/causes-risks-prevention/what-causes.html:
Other risk factors that could increase one’s likelihood of developing kidney cancer include10https://www.cancer.org/cancer/kidney-cancer/causes-risks-prevention/risk-factors.html:
If you are at high risk of developing kidney cancer, your doctor may recommend you get regularly screened for it with imaging tests such as MRI, CT, or ultrasound11https://www.cancer.org/cancer/kidney-cancer/detection-diagnosis-staging/detection.html.
Generally, if you are presenting with signs of the disease, your doctor will begin by conducting a thorough physical exam, feeling your abdomen for an abnormal mass. If your doctor finds cause for concern, it’s likely they will recommend both lab and imaging tests. While lab tests cannot diagnose kidney cancer, they can reveal that there might be an initial problem, among other information12https://www.cancer.org/cancer/kidney-cancer/detection-diagnosis-staging/how-diagnosed.html.
Imaging tests can also be useful in detecting kidney cancer. The most common ones used include CT scans, ultrasounds, MRIs, and PET scans. As previously mentioned, however, CT and PET scans expose you to radiation that can be harmful13https://www.mayoclinic.org/tests-procedures/pet-scan/about/pac-20385078 14https://www.mayoclinic.org/tests-procedures/pet-scan/about/pac-20385078, and MRIs have been shown to be more effective in detecting and staging kidney cancer than CT scans. Unlike with most other types of cancer, biopsies are not frequently performed with kidney cancers, as imaging tests often provide specialists with the information they need to know15https://www.mayoclinic.org/tests-procedures/pet-scan/about/pac-20385078.
If you have been diagnosed with kidney cancer, your doctor will likely run additional imaging tests on your to stage your disease. Staging a cancer helps physicians come up with a treatment plan for it based on its severity.
In America, physicians most commonly use the TNM system:
The best treatment for kidney cancer depends on the nature of the disease and how far it has spread. Treatment options may include: ablation, radiation, active surveillance, surgery, chemotherapy, immunotherapy, or targeted therapy16https://www.cancer.org/cancer/kidney-cancer/treating.html.
Please consult with a physician on treatment options as necessary.