March is National Kidney Cancer Awareness Month. It's also National Kidney Month. We've already written about kidney stones—you can test your kidney stone knowledge here. Now, we want to shine the spotlight on kidney cancer.
As with all content on Greater Boston Urology's blog, the following information is educational in nature, not medical advice. Always talk to your physician about your specific health care questions and conditions.
Here are 15 important facts about kidney cancer.
- Kidney cancer is the 14th most common cancer worldwide. In 2018, Belarus had the highest rate of kidney cancer followed by Latvia. [World Cancer Research Fund]
- In the United States, kidney cancer is the sixth most common cancer for men and eighth most common cancer for women. [Cancer.Net]
- Kidney cancer is about as twice as common in men than it is in women. The lifetime risk for developing kidney cancer in men is 1 in 46. In women, it's 1 in 80. [American Cancer Society]
- Kidney cancer is more common in African Americans and American Indian /Alaska Natives. [American Cancer Society]
- Heredity accounts for 4-6% of kidney cancer cases. [Urology Care Foundation]
- Most people with kidney cancer are older, with 64 as the average age of diagnosis. Kidney cancer is very uncommon in people younger than 45. [American Cancer Society]
- The rate of new kidney cancers has been rising since the 1990s (although it has leveled out in recent years). The cause is unclear, but some theories suggest the rise is due to better imaging and CT scans—and the increase in the use of these tests. [American Cancer Society]
- To go along with the previous point, the increase in testing has led to an increase in discovery of smaller kidney tumors unexpectedly because of tests ordered for another reason unrelated to cancer. [Cancer.net]
- Between 2008 and 2017, deaths from kidney cancer decreased by 1% per year. [Cancer.net]
- Smoking is the most important risk factor for kidney cancer. [Centers for Disease Control]
- Other kidney cancer risk factors include (but are not limited to) high blood pressure, obesity, family history, and even workplace exposure to certain substances, such as trichloroethylene. [American Cancer Society]
- Most early-stage kidney cancers don't present any symptoms. If there are symptoms, these will include (but are not limited to) hematuria (blood in the urine), flank pain between ribs and hips, low back pain on one side, loss of appetite, and/or weight loss. [Urology Care Foundation]
- There are no routine lab tests to find kidney masses. As referenced earlier, over half of all kidney masses are found by chance. (And not all masses are cancerous.) Your doctor will use a variety of tests to learn about your kidneys. [Urology Care Foundation]
- The kidney cancer stage will inform treatment. Some patients might require surgery. Others might not need surgery. A biopsy of the tumor can also help inform treatment. Treatment options can include active surveillance, ablation, partial nephrectomy, or radical nephrectomy. [Urology Care Foundation]
- The earlier kidney cancer is caught, the better the chance of survival. [The Urology Care Foundation]
More helpful kidney cancer content
- Learn more about Greater Boston Urology's approach to kidney cancer diagnosis and treatment.
- Here are seven ways to participate in Kidney Cancer Awareness Month.
- How Dr. Natalya Lopushnyan uses robotic surgery for treating kidney cancer.
- National Cancer Institute's page on kidney cancer.