Renal cell carcinoma

Malignant changes in kidney cells represent one of the rarer forms of cancer. Every year, more than 337,000 people are diagnosed with kidney cancer representing about four percent of all cancer diagnoses. Kidney cancer causes 143,000 deaths annually.
The most common form of kidney cancer is renal cell carcinoma (RCC) which accounts for approximately 85 percent of kidney cancer diagnoses.

In general, men are twice as likely to be affected by RCC as women. More than 90 percent of all cases are diagnosed in people above the age of forty-five, and in the majority of these people, the illness appears between the ages of sixty and seventy. Typical symptoms, such as blood in the urine, generally appear at a relatively late stage of disease. Other symptoms, such as backache or abdominal pain tend to be non-specific. As a result, RCC is often discovered by chance during routine imaging examinations for unrelated complaints. Metastases have already formed in a third of patients at the time of diagnosis. Renal cell carcinomas are fatal for about a half of patients.

It is still unclear why renal cells become malignant. It is suspected, however, that certain genes are no longer fulfilling their function, so the uncontrolled proliferation of cells is no longer blocked. In addition, smoking, obesity, high fat diets, hormonal factors, petroleum products, asbestos, certain solvents, certain rare inherited conditions and painkillers containing phenacetine have been cited as RCC risk factors.

Treating RCC

The earlier a patient is diagnosed with RCC, the more treatment options are available. The preferred way of treating RCC is to surgically remove the tumor or the entire kidney in an operation. Additional possibilities include radiotherapy or immunotherapies with alpha-interferon or interleukin-2. The disease is sometimes also treated with chemotherapy. Despite these possibilities, the prospects of a cure are limited, especially if the therapy is started at a late stage. If metastases have already formed, this worsens the prognosis.

Advice for patients

Each body reacts differently to medicines. Therefore it is impossible to tell which medicine works best for you. Please consult your physician.