Cancer patient says it took 10 hours to get home from hospital
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Kidney cancer is a common disease which sees cancerous cells form in the tubes of the kidney. While lifestyle habits like smoking can increase the risk of this life-threatening disease, age is also strongly linked to an increased risk. Like any cancer, finding it early makes it easier to treat – and- these are just five key warning signs to look out for.
What is kidney cancer?
The kidneys are a vital organ which work to get rid of waste while regulating fluid balance.
Tiny tubes known as tubules which are found in the kidneys play a crucial role in filtering blood, excreting waste and making urine.
The growth of cells in the tubules is known as renal cell carcinoma (RCC) and is the most common kind of kidney found in adults.
As a fast-growing cancer, it is essential to look out for early warning signs of RCC before tumours spread to the lungs and surrounding organs.
What are the earliest signs of kidney cancer?
According to Cancer Research UK, kidney cancer is most commonly found in people aged 75 or over, accounting for around a third of new cases each year.
Some early signs can be harder to spot in older people because symptoms like back pain and fatigue are often dismissed as side effects of ageing.
Unexplained weight loss
Losing weight is not often something that comes naturally to people, so it can be a cause for concern when it happens without any effort at all.
Unexplained weight loss is a key characteristic of nearly all cancers and is one of the most common signs of kidney cancer.
As the tumour spreads to other organs, clusters of cancerous cells can affect the digestive processes or the production of hormones in your body, resulting in a loss of appetite.
This can leave you feeling uninterested in eating and lead to weight loss.
Blood in urine
One of the most common signs of kidney cancer is blood in the urine – medically known as haematuria.
This isn’t always easy to spot, as some urine can present as pink or brown rather than bright red, so look out for darker urine as well as reddish hues.
Blood in your urine might not appear consistently, but you should make note of how often it does happen in order to aid a potential diagnosis.
Spotting blood in your urine doesn’t always mean you have cancer – there are several other common causes of bloody urine, including:
- Kidney infection
- Bladder infection
- Kidney stones
- Injury to the kidney
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Anaemia and fatigue
Fatigue is commonly associated with a long list of health conditions which can often make it a tricky symptom to acknowledge.
According to the medically accredited website, Healthline, fatigue affects nearly half of all people with cancer – making it one of the most commonly known symptoms.
Cancer-related fatigue is more than just tiredness. It is persistent, intense and interferes with daily activities.
Anaemia is a condition which describes a low red blood cell count and is a common side effect of kidney cancer.
Healthy kidneys tell the body to produce red blood cells, but growing tumours can interfere with this crucial signalling.
Healthline recognises the physical signs of cancer-related anaemia as:
- Worsening fatigue
- Shortness of breath
- Skin that appears more pale than usual
Lower back pain
Kidneys are two bean-shaped organs located just below the rib cage on either side of the spine.
While there are countless causes of lower back pain, the location of the kidneys has a lot to do with this common ache.
Back pain caused by kidney cancer can range from a dull ache to a sharp stabbing sensation on your back or one side or your flank (between the lower back and bottom of your ribs).
Persistent pain down one side of the torso has also been linked to kidney cancer.
If the pain lasts more than a few days, you should always visit a doctor first to rule out a cancer diagnosis.
A lump on your abdomen
Another sign of kidney cancer is a mass or lump around the abdomen.
A hard, thickening or bulging bump under the skin is most common in the abdominal region, side and back.
Kidney lumps can be hard to feel in the early stages because the organs sit deep inside the abdominal cavity, so you should always flag this to a doctor if you notice any new or enlarged lumps.
Ultrasound scans can be used to determine the root cause of the lump and a further biopsy can be done to detect cancerous cells.
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