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Kidney cancer: Know the warning signs

Woman holding back - Kidney cancer
Back pain is a potential symptom of kidney cancer.

If you’re having back pain or flank pain, which means discomfort in your upper abdomen or back and sides, and you begin to see blood in your urine, you should be seen by a medical provider. These can be signs of kidney cancer.

Other troubling signs are weight loss and fatigue.

While some people who have kidney cancer will experience symptoms, about 60 percent of people with kidney cancer will not display any initial symptoms, said Dr. Demet Yasar, a Marshfield Clinic hematologist/oncologist.

“Kidney cancer is often found when a person comes in for some kind of unrelated imaging test, and a mass is found,” Yasar said.

When to seek care

Back pain and fatigue, while possibly indicative of kidney cancer, also could occur for a variety of other reasons. So how should a person decide when they need to seek medical attention?

“If the fatigue or pain has been persistent over a long period of time, it is a good idea to get checked out,” Yasar said. “Also, if you notice a sudden change in how you are feeling, if your symptoms are getting worse, you should seek care.”

Yasar said it is typical for older individuals to dismiss a decline in health as simple effects of aging, but anyone whose health suddenly gets worse should be seen.

Treating kidney cancer

Kidney cancer is typically treated with surgery, especially in the early stages of the disease. Part of the kidney or the entire kidney may be removed. If the cancer spreads, chemotherapy may become necessary.

“Usually one kidney is enough for the body to function properly, and dialysis will not be necessary if a kidney is removed,” Yasar said.

Treatability of kidney cancer depends on aggressiveness of the particular cancer, what stage it’s in and when it’s found.

“When it is caught early, the prognosis may be very good,” Yasar said. “If it metastasizes to other parts of the body, the prognosis becomes more complicated.”

Yasar said it is very rare for people to get cancer in both kidneys. If you have a sudden change in your health or have symptoms that have grown worse, contact your provider.

One response to “Kidney cancer: Know the warning signs”

  1. Linda F. Kovalik

    Had my left kidney removed because of cancer. Had been admitted for a bowel blockage the beginning of August, 2011. That's when they found the cancer in my kidney. Needless to say, I was horrified because my right kidney was removed in 1973 because of stones. I thought my life was over. Finally accepted my circumstances and am now living my life to the fullest considering all that is wrong with me.
    I feel that anyone with one kidney should be monitored over the years to check on the remaining kidney. I feel that if the cancer had been caught earlier I would not have to have had the left kidney removed. I'm on dialysis 3 days a week and doing well.
    Any comments on my feelings ? I'd appreciate any comments. Thank you.

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