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Most cancers start small.  Given time and the right conditions they grow larger and eventually they spread to other parts of the body.  This spreading phase is known as metastasis. Kidney cancer follows this basic course, starting small within the kidney, growing into larger and larger tumors, and then eventually spreading to nearby lymph nodes or other organs of the body. Obviously the sooner kidney cancer is detected the easier it is to control.  Once kidney cancer has begun to metastasize (spread to other parts of the body) it becomes much more difficult to stop – and survival rates plummet dramatically.

What Are the Warning Signs of Kidney Cancer?

Kidney cancer does not always present warning signs until the disease has already spread to other parts of the body.  In many cases kidney cancer is only detected as a fortuitous accident when x-rays or MRIs or CAT Scans of other parts of the body just happen to image the kidney and a tumor is spotted.  However, there are a few common signs that some kidney cancer suffers experience that can lead to an early diagnosis.  Blood in the urine is one of the most common early-warning signs.  If your urine begins looking more pink or reddish than normal, consult with your health care professional immediately.  A lower back pain that doesn’t feel like a muscle pain can be a warning sign, particularly if the pain does not go away after a couple of days.  Again, consult your health care professional immediately.  Sudden weight loss and the feeling of being tired all the time are other symptoms.  Bear in mind that each of these symptoms can be a sign of another disease entirely, so consult your health provider immediately for an accurate assessment.

Kidney Cancer Stages

There are two primary types of kidney cancer.  Renal cell carcinoma is the most common, followed by Renal Pelvis Carcinoma.  The stages of kidney cancer are not universally accepted, but the most common staging is:  Stage 1 in which the cancer cells have not spread from the kidney.  Stage 2 is where the cancerous cells have spread only to the fatty tissue around the kidney, but no further.  Stage 3 is defined as cancer that has spread to nearby blood vessels and lymph nodes, and Stage 4 is defined as cancer that has spread to nearby organs like the pancreas or the bowel or the lungs.

Kidney Cancer Survival Rates

Your chances of surviving kidney cancer depend almost entirely on which stage your cancer is in when it is detected, and what your overall health is at the time you begin treatment.  If your cancer is detected in the early stages, in stages 1 or 2, your 5-year survival rate is somewhere between 60 and 70 percent, depending on other factors such as being overweight or smoking, both of which reduce your chances of survival.  If your kidney cancer is detected in Stage 3 your chances of surviving for 5 years are between 5 and 15 percent.   If your kidney cancer has spread widely to other parts of your body, your prognosis is less than 5 percent for a 5-year survival.  See your doctor regularly and report any symptoms that you have which may indicate the possibility of kidney cancer.  Unfortunately there are no simple blood or urine tests that can positively identify kidney cancer – your only alternative is an imagining test, such as x-ray, CAT scan or MRI.

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