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Kidney Cancer

Kidney cancer is a type of cancer that originates in the kidney, a bean-shaped organ that eliminates waste from the body through urine and helps control blood pressure. The condition results from the growth of abnormal cells in the kidney tissue, causing a tumour to develop. In Singapore, kidney cancer is one of the top 10 most common cancers. In particular, men between the ages of 60 and 70 are at a higher risk of developing kidney cancer.

What are the Signs and Symptoms
of Kidney Cancer?

Kidney cancer usually does not exhibit any symptoms during its early stages. In the later stages, signs and symptoms of the disease may include:

  • Blood in the urine
  • Lower back or side pain and discomfort
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Fatigue
  • Abdominal mass or lump
  • Fever

What are the Types of Kidney Cancer?

Kidney cancer can be classified into several types, including:

  • Renal cell carcinoma – This is the most common type of kidney cancer that accounts for approximately 85–90% of all diagnoses.

  • Urothelial carcinoma – Known as transitional cell carcinoma, this occurs in the renal pelvis, a funnel-shaped area where urine is collected before it is transmitted to the bladder.

  • Wilms tumour – Also called nephroblastoma, Wilms tumour is a type of kidney cancer that commonly develops in children. The condition usually affects children between the ages of 3 and 4 years old.

  • Renal sarcoma – This is a rare type of kidney cancer characterised by the development of cancerous cells in the blood vessels or connective tissues of the kidney.

What Causes Kidney Cancer?

Cancer of the kidney has no specific known cause. A number of risk factors, however, contribute to an increased likelihood of developing the disease. These include:

  • Smoking
  • High blood pressure
  • Obesity
  • Long-term use of certain medications
  • Certain genetic conditions
  • Family history of kidney cancer

How is Kidney Cancer Detected?

In order to diagnose kidney cancer, a kidney cancer clinic performs a number of tests and procedures, including the following:

  • Ultrasound or Computed Tomography (CT) scan – An imaging test can provide detailed images of the kidneys and determine the extent and characteristics of a kidney tumour.
  • Kidney biopsy – To detect signs of kidney cancer, a thin needle may be inserted into the kidney to obtain a sample of cells for laboratory analysis.
  • Cystoscopy – By inserting a thin, flexible tube with a lens and light called a cystoscope, the doctor can examine the urethra, prostate, and bladder in real-time to detect blood in the urine and kidney cancer.

What are the Treatments for Kidney Cancer?

A wide range of kidney cancer treatment options are available depending on the type of cancer and the extent of the tumour. These include:

  • Surgery – Surgery is initially meant to remove the tumour while maintaining the functionality of the kidneys. In advanced stages, it may be necessary to partially or entirely remove the kidneys. Ultimately, there are different types of kidney cancer surgery, depending on the extent of the cancer.
  • Radiofrequency ablation – This uses electric currents to destroy cancerous cells via the insertion of a needle through the skin and into the kidney tumour.
  • Active surveillance – In mild cases, this simply involves regular imaging to monitor the development of kidney tumours.
  • Chemotherapy – This uses anti-cancer medications administered through the mouth or a vein (IV).
  • Immunotherapy – Certain medications are given to boost the immune system in order to aid the body in identifying and fighting off cancerous cells.

Are There Any Risks in Undergoing Kidney Surgery?

Kidney surgery carries the following risks:

  • Formation of blood clots and bleeding
  • Blockage or leakage of the ureter
  • Infection
  • Unsuccessful or rejected donated kidney

However, when in the hands of an experienced urologist, you can rest assured of a safe treatment and aftercare journey.

Dr Michael Wong

Medical Director & Senior Consultant Urologist
FAMS (Urology), FICS (USA), FRCS (Edinburgh),
M Med (Surgery), MBBS (S’pore)

Dr Michael Wong is a Senior Consultant Urologist who is internationally recognized for his surgical expertise and academic contribution to the field of Urology, in particular the subspecialized field of minimally invasive Endourology.

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