Kidney cancer is also known as renal cell cancer, renal adenocarcinoma, or hypernephroma. It can often be cured if it is diagnosed and treated when it is only located in the kidney and immediate surrounding tissue. Even when regional lymph nodes or blood vessels are involved with tumors, many patients can achieve prolonged survival and probable cure.
What are the stages of kidney cancer?
Once your doctor has diagnosed kidney cancer, the next step is to determine the extent (stage) of cancer. Staging of kidney cancer may include additional computed tomography (CT) scans and other imaging tests to determine the location and depth of the tumor. Staging of kidney cancer is done on the basis of T, N, M (tumor size, lymph node involvement, and metastatic or distant spread).
N0 means no lymph node spread; N1 means lymph nodes are involved.
M0 means no metastasis to other organs; M1 means metastasis present.
- Stage I kidney cancer: Tumor is confined to the kidney and measures less than 7 cm in diameter (T1, N0, M0).
- Stage II kidney cancer: Tumor is within the kidney only and is sized greater than 7 cm in diameter (T2, N0, M0).
- Stage III kidney cancer: Tumor has spread from the kidney to the surrounding tissue or nearby lymph nodes (T1 or T2, N1, M0) or (T3, any N, M0).
- Stage IV kidney cancer: Tumor has spread outside the kidney to multiple lymph nodes in distant regions and/or other organs in the body (T4, any N, M0) or (any T, any N, M1).
How long can you live with kidney cancer?
The 5-year survival rates also give us an idea about how treatable a particular cancer is. This rate tells you what percent of people live at least five years after the cancer is found. The five-year survival rate for people with kidney cancer is generally 75%.
Kidney cancer stage
Five-year survival rate
What does the survival rate mean?
I and II
93 people out of 100 with kidney cancer will survive for at least five years
70 people out of 100 with kidney cancer will survive for at least five years
12 people out of 100 with kidney cancer will survive for at least five years
Nearly 65% of people with kidney cancer are diagnosed when the cancer is in its early stage (stage I).
Keep in mind that these survival rate statistics are based on previous data of a large number of people in a particular period. It does not mean that you will also face the same outcome. How long you will live depends on various factors such as your age, other health conditions, and your body’s response to various cancer therapies. Please ask your doctor to know about the various factors in your case that can affect your survival.
How is kidney cancer treated?
The doctor will discuss various treatment options and their risks and benefits with you before initiating the therapy.
If you have kidney cancer that has spread (metastasis) to other organs, it might be very hard to treat and almost impossible to cure. In this case, the doctor will give you treatment to limit the spread of cancer and its symptoms and help you live longer.
Treatment for kidney cancer depends on the stage of cancer and includes:
Surgery: Surgery is often the preferred treatment if your kidney cancer is localized, that is, present only in the kidney and has not spread anywhere else. Surgery for removing the tumor from the kidney is known as nephrectomy and is of two types:
- Radical nephrectomy: Also known as complete nephrectomy, this surgery involves removing the whole kidney that contains the tumor. The surrounding tissues and lymph nodes might also be removed.
- Partial nephrectomy: This surgery is done to remove only the tumor in the kidney but retain the kidney. It is also known as kidney-sparing surgery.
If you are not fit for the surgery, non-surgical options that destroy the tumor will be adopted. These include:
- Cryoablation: This procedure freezes the cancer cells by using a special hollow needle that reaches till the kidney.
- Radioablation: This procedure uses an electric current passing through a needle that burns the tumor in the kidney.
- Radiation therapy: Once cancer spreads outside of the kidneys, doctors consider local therapy such as radiation therapy. Radiation therapy uses X-rays and other high-energy beams to destroy the cancer cells.
- Chemotherapy: Chemotherapy uses drugs to kill cancer cells. This is usually used if the kidney cancer has spread to other organs of the body. In some cases, your doctor might combine other treatments such as surgery and radiation with chemotherapy to prevent the future growth of kidney tumors.
- Targeted therapy: Targeted therapy is a treatment that targets kidney cancer’s specific genes, proteins, or the tissue environment that help in the growth of cancer. It blocks the growth and spread of cancer cells but restricts damage to normal cells.
- Clinical trials: Many clinical trials happen on newer therapies in cancer. If the available treatments are not working, you can ask your doctor if you can enroll in one.
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Kidney cancer. Available at: https://www.cancer.org/cancer/kidney-cancer/
Renal Cell Cancer Treatment (PDQ®): Health Professional Version. 2020 Jul. Bethesda (MD): National Cancer Institute (US); 2002. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK65815/
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