This year, June 16th is being observed as World Kidney Cancer Day. The theme of this year’s World Kidney Cancer Day is ‘We need to talk about different treatment options.’ Kidney cancer, also known as renal cancer, is one of the rising cancers around the world.
It is the 13th most prevalent form of cancer and is turning out to be a large health challenge. It is the cause of 1.8 lakh deaths every year. In India alone, 1 in 442 men and 1 in 600 women are at high risk of contracting Kidney cancer. Statistics also show that the disease is more prevalent among men over women.
Factors causing kidney cancer
While a number of causes have been directly found to increase the chances of contracting kidney cancer, medical practitioners are yet to comprehensively narrow down on the exact factors that cause the disease.
Smoking, hereditary transmission, obesity, and alcohol intake are some of the factors that increase the risk of Kidney cancer. Age is another factor as people aged above 40 years are more likely to develop the infection.
Considered as a ‘silent disease’, the incidence of Kidney cancer does not immediately result in any major physiological or bodily changes. It is only after the disease has progressed substantially that its symptoms begin coming to light. Common symptoms of Kidney Cancer are –
Blood discharge during urination (most common)
Lump in the abdomen or on the side portions
Sustained and long fatigue
Loss of body weight
Recurring fever without any normal cause
Shortness of breath
Coughing up blood
Acute pain in bones
Early diagnosis and subsequent treatment are the most crucial aspects when it comes to tackling Kidney cancer. Immediate check-up and consultation with doctors in the event of probable symptoms is extremely important to nip the rising infection in the bud.
Urine tests and CT scans are some of the common diagnostic tests to ascertain the presence of cancerous cells in and around the kidney.
It is very important for a patient to be prescribed the right treatment that suits the stage of the disease and other variable factors such as age and location of the disease. Some of the most common treatment options for kidney cancer are surgery, chemotherapy, targeted therapy and immunotherapy among others.
As per, NCRP 2021 report, surgery is the most used treatment in case of kidney cancer. The tumor is surgically removed from the kidney. If the tumor has spread to the whole kidney, then the entire kidney is removed along with the tumor. In other cases, only the tumor and the area around its vicinity is surgically excised to cure the patient.
However, surgery will not be the choice of treatment when the cancer has spread to other body organs apart from the kidney. Instead, targeted therapy and immunotherapy would be the more viable alternatives. The treatment has very few side-effects as compared to conventional chemotherapy while it fights the cancerous cells. Apart from tackling the immediate site of cancer, the targeted therapy or immunotherapy either alone or in combination leads to complete responses even in the advanced cases of the disease. The treatment also has the potential to build strong immunity to guard against future tumors.
On this World Kidney Cancer Day, one should commit to a healthy lifestyle which involves regular exercise, zero consumption of alcohol and tobacco, along with being on a constant vigil against symptoms of cancer. Timely diagnosis along with the right prescription of treatment are essential to beat kidney cancer.
(The author is Director, Department of Medical Oncology, Rajiv Gandhi Cancer Institute, New Delhi)
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