Urologic Conditions & Treatments

Kidney Cancer in Chattanooga

kidney cancer chattanooga tn

Each of us has 2 kidneys. The kidneys primary job is to filter and clean the blood, removing waste through the creation of urine. The kidneys also release hormones that control blood pressure and promote the creation of red blood cells.

Kidney cancer forms in the lining of the tubes that filter blood inside the kidneys. It is one of the top ten most common cancers and is increasing at a rate of about 4% per year in the U.S. The risk of kidney cancer increases with age, with most cases occurring between the ages of 50-70. With timely diagnosis and treatment at UT Urology in Chattanooga TN, kidney cancer can be cured. Many kidney cancers are found at an early stage where survival rate is excellent.

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Risk Factors for Kidney Cancer

Studies show that lifestyle risk factors can increase your risk of kidney cancer. These include:

  • Smoking
  • Certain genetic and inherited conditions including a family history of kidney cancer
  • High blood pressure and some medications for high blood pressure have been linked to kidney cancer
  • Workplace exposure to chemicals that cause genetic mutations
  • Obesity increases the risk of Renal Cell Carcinoma (RCC)
  • RCC is two times more common in men
  • African Americans and Native American Indians have a higher risk of RCC

Signs of Kidney Cancer

Some of the signs that you may have kidney cancer include:

  • Blood in the urine
  • A lump in the abdomen, side or lower back
  • Low back pain on one side
  • Fatigue
  • Weight loss without trying
  • Fever that is not due to infection and will not go away
  • Anemia
  • Loss of appetite

Most of the time, kidney cancer may have no or only a few symptoms. It is vital that you see a doctor if you have any of these symptoms. The earlier you get a diagnosis, the better the chance of being treated and cured.

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Types of Renal Cell Carcinoma (RCC)

Renal Cell Carcinoma (RCC) is the most common type of kidney cancer. 90% of kidney cancers are RCC.

Usually there is one tumor within the kidney, but sometimes there may be 2 or more tumors within one kidney or tumors in both kidneys. The subtype is one factor in making treatment decisions, and helps determine if your kidney cancer is inherited.

There are several subtypes of RCC based on microscopic examination of the cancer cells.

  • Clear cell renal cell carcinoma- this is the most common form accounting for 70% of renal cancers.
  • Papillary renal cell carcinoma- is the second most common form accounting for 10% of renal cancers.
  • Chromophobe renal cell carcinoma- this accounts for about 5% or 5 in 100 cases of kidney cancer.
  • Rare types make up less than 1% of cases.

Diagnosis of Kidney Cancer

Many kidney cancers are found early, but some grow to more advanced stages. Your physician will take a complete medical history and conduct a physical exam. You will receive urine and blood tests, and likely imaging tests as well. Imaging tests like ultrasounds, CAT scans and MRIs can find small kidney tumors, but they cannot distinguish benign and cancerous tumors. Frequently kidney cancer is discovered by accident during the diagnosis of other conditions such as a gallbladder attack or other gastrointestinal symptom.

In certain circumstances a biopsy may be recommended. However, most often surgery is performed to remove the tumor and then it is examined by a pathologist to render a final diagnosis.

Staging the Tumor (Discovering the Extent of Spread of the Disease)

Staging is made based on the size of the tumor and whether it has spread to nearby tissue or other parts of the body.

  • Stage 1 – The tumor is small and confined to the kidney
  • Stage 2 – the tumor is larger than in stage 1, but is still confined to the kidney
  • Stage 3 – The cancer cells have spread to lymph nodes or blood vessels
  • Stage 4 – the tumor has grown outside the kidney, invade other nearby organs and/ or cells have spread to the lymph, lungs, liver and bones

Kidney Cancer Treatment Options

Kidney cancer treatment depends on your age, overall health, the size of the tumor, whether cancer has spread outside the kidneys or has spread to other parts of the body. Treatment options include surgery, targeted therapy and biological therapy.

You will see a urologist who specializes in treating kidney cancers. You may have a team of specialists to plan your options, the expected results and side effects. Tumor removal is the standard treatment, but the type of surgery depends on the size and stage of the tumor, and whether it affects one or both kidneys.

Types of surgery include:

  • Radical Nephrectomy – The removal of the affected kidney. This is most often performed laparoscopically, sometimes using the da Vinci® Robotic System
  • Partial Nephrectomy – Only the part of the kidney that contains the tumor is removed, saving kidney function. It is limited to tumors confined within the kidney and this is also mostly performed laparoscopically using the da Vinci Robotic System
  • Cryosurgery – The tumor is frozen, which kills the tumor
  • Radiofrequency Ablation – The use of a special probe with an electrode that can kill the cancer cells with heat

A nonsurgical option is targeted therapy and immunotherapy using a drug to shrink the tumor and slow tumor growth.

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Kidney Cancer FAQs

How fast can kidney cancer spread?

All cancer cells can metastasize, or spread, to other parts of the body. Kidney cancer is no different. There isn’t a set time frame when this can happen. Overall, most kidney cancers are slow to spread. When kidney cancer is given a stage from I to IV, this is used to describe the growth or spread of the cancer through the kidney and beyond. The lower the number, the less the cancer has spread. A higher number, such as stage 4, means a more serious cancer that has spread away from the kidney.

How can I prepare for kidney cancer treatment?

Kidney cancer is primarily treated with surgery. Our highly skilled surgeons will help determine if you are a candidate for kidney sparing surgery, where only the tumor, not the whole kidney, is removed. For more advanced kidney cancers, surgery, targeted therapy, immunotherapy, or a combination of these treatments may be recommended. Radiation therapy and chemotherapy are occasionally used. When cancer has spread, often multiple lines of therapy are used to aggressively fight the cancer.

Preparation is as varied as treatments. For most treatments there isn’t much preparation other than preparing for the time after your treatment. For instance, if you’re having immunotherapy, you’ll need to plan for rest as you will have periods of serious fatigue.

Each of the treatment approaches we use at UT Urology can affect the patient in different ways. During our consultations prior to any treatment approach, we’ll establish a complete give-and-take of information with you on what you can expect, any preparation you’ll need to make, and any other information you will need moving forward.

Are there any clinical trials available as treatment for kidney cancer?

There are always a series of clinical trials available for kidney cancer. Most of these trials revolve around renal cell carcinoma, as it makes up 90 percent of kidney cancer patients. These trials involve different medications, immunotherapy, gene therapy, and other methodology.

When we meet with you and move from diagnosis to possible treatment approaches, we can share with you the clinical trials that you may qualify for.

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Are there any clinical trials available as treatment for kidney cancer?

There are always a series of clinical trials available for kidney cancer. Most of these trials revolve around renal cell carcinoma, as it makes up 90 percent of kidney cancer patients. These trials involve different medications, immunotherapy, gene therapy, and other methodology.

When we meet with you and move from diagnosis to possible treatment approaches, we can share with you the clinical trials that you may qualify for.

Will I need more treatment after possible surgery?

Surgery is the initial treatment for most kidney cancers. The goal of surgery is to remove the cancer while preserving normal kidney function when possible. Luckily, surgery may be the only treatment necessary for most patients. Our team of specialist can help determine if you will also need additional treatments, such as chemotherapy or radiation therapy.

If the tumor is too large or too advanced (widely metastasized), sometimes surgery is not the first line of therapy.

How effective is chemotherapy for kidney cancer?

Chemotherapy uses anti-cancer drugs that are given intravenously or orally. These drugs enter your blood and reach nearly all areas of the body, which makes this treatment approach useful for metastasized kidney cancer that has moved to other areas.

Unfortunately, kidney cancer cells usually do not respond well to chemotherapy, and this is not a standard treatment for kidney cancer. Chemotherapy is often only used for kidney cancer after targeted drugs and/or immunotherapy have already been tried as treatment approaches.

Are there side effects from kidney cancer treatment?

Side effects from surgery are the same as with any surgical procedure: possible infection, excessive bleeding, reaction to anesthesia, and the like. More serious potential side effects with surgery are damage to other internal organs, incisional hernias, and kidney failure.

Radiation therapy uses high-energy rays to destroy cancer cells. The common side effects with radiation therapy include skin problems, fatigue, diarrhea, and vomiting.

As mentioned above, chemotherapy is not as commonly used with kidney cancer as other forms of treatment. But it may be used if the cancer has spread. Side effects include bruising and bleeding, hair loss, and the development of sores in the mouth.

Immunotherapy helps your body’s natural immune system better recognize and destroy cancer cells. Side effects are similar to those with radiation therapy, fatigue, skin problems, and diarrhea. But certain immunotherapy drugs can produce more severe side effects. These include low blood pressure, fluid buildup in the lungs, intestinal bleeding, and heart attack.

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If you or a loved one has been diagnosed with kidney cancer, UT Urology is here for you. Our team of highly experienced urologic surgeons and oncologists offer you the best quality treatments available for kidney cancer, including kidney sparing surgery. Our team of physicians have advanced robotic and laparoscopic trainings and have performed thousands of minimally invasive surgeries for kidney cancer.

We are leader in urologic cancer care providing service to the Chattanooga, Tennessee, and North Alabama regions.

To find out more about kidney cancer in Chattanooga, East Ridge TN and surrounding areas, or to schedule an appointment, fill out our online contact form here.

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