Kidneys & bladder are the major organs of the urinary tract, along with the ureters and urethra. The kidneys main function is to filter blood to remove impurities, excess minerals, salts, and water, thus producing urine. Urine is then stored in the bladder – a hollow organ in the pelvis – before it leaves the body during urination.
Cancer in the kidney is also known as renal cancer. The most common type of kidney cancer is renal cell carcinoma (RCC) which develops in the proximal renal tubules that make up of the kidney’s filtration system. According to the National Cancer Registry Report 2007-2011, kidney cancer accounts for 1.28% cancer cases in Malaysia.
Due to the correlation between the kidneys and bladder, both types of cancer share similar signs and symptoms, such as:
- Blood in urine
- Pain or burning sensation during urination
- Feeling the need to urinate many times
- Lower back pain on 1 side of the body
People with kidney cancer may also experience these symptoms:
- Swelling of ankles and legs
- A mass or lump on the side or back
- Unexplained weight loss
- Loss of appetite
- For men, the cluster of enlarged veins, known as varicocele, around a testicle may present if the tumour has grown larger
The actual cause of kidney & bladder cancer is not known. However, a few risk factors are known to be associated with the development of kidney and bladder cancer, such as:
- High blood pressure
- Overuse of certain medications (diuretics and analgesic pills like aspirin & ibuprofen)
- Smoking tobacco (doubles the risk of developing cancer)
- Genetic predisposal (family history)
- Chronic kidney disease
- Workplace exposure
- Chemicals like aromatic amines, which are sometimes used in the dye industry can cause bladder cancer
- Substances like cadmium (a type of metal), herbicides, and organic solvents, particularly trichloroethylene
Staging of Kidney & Bladder Cancer
Staging of cancer helps the doctor determine the treatment course and the diagram below explains the meaning behind the numbering of cancer staging.
- Blood and urine test – would be the preliminary diagnostic procedure to check for the number of red blood cells and to check on blood in urine, bacteria or cancer cells.
- Cystoscopy – is a procedure that allows your doctor to examine the lining of your bladder and the tube that carries urine out of your body. A cystoscope equipped with a lens is inserted into your urethra and slowly advanced into your bladder.
- Biopsy – to obtain tumour cells for examination under a microscope.
Medical imaging technologies such as:
- Computed tomography (CT scan),
- Positron Emission Tomography – Computed Tomography (PET/CT Scan)
- Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)
Treatment course will be determined by the oncologist upon obtaining the results of the diagnostic. Depending on the staging of cancer, the location and size of the tumour, treatment options may vary from case to case and inclusive of:
- Targeted Therapy