Each year, about 7,800 people in the UK are diagnosed with kidney cancer. It is more common in men than women and becomes commoner as people get older. It is rare for people under 40 to get kidney cancer but there is an uncommon type called Wilms' tumour, that affects very young children. Usually only one kidney is affected and it's rare for cancer to occur in the other kidney. Doctors don't know exactly what causes kidney cancer and for many people the cause is never found, but a number of things are known to increase the risk of developing it.
- Cigarette smoking
- Being overweight (obese)
- Some medical conditions, such as having high blood pressure (hypertension), may increase the risk. People with advanced kidney disease, especially those who need to have dialysis, have a higher risk of developing kidney cancer.
- Exposure to certain materials at work may affect a person's risk, such as, blast furnaces or coke-ovens in the steel and coal industries, or working with Trichloroethylene (Tric) a petroleum by-product used in the heavy engineering industry. Being exposed to cadmium, lead or asbestos at work may also increase risk.
- Inherited risk. Most kidney cancers aren't inherited but occasionally, two or more members of the same family develop kidney cancer. If this happens, the other members of the family may have a higher than average risk of getting kidney cancer. Surgery is the main treatment for kidney cancer.
Symptoms: What should I look out for?
Blood in the Urine (Haematuria)
The causes of blood in the urine are not always serious but they should always be investigated. Investigations include urine testing, cystoscopy (examination of the bladder with a telescope usually under local anaesthetic) and an ultrasound scan of your kidneys and bladder. The bleeding can be caused by infection or inflammation of the bladder or the presence of stones. In men it can be caused by an enlarged prostate but it can also be caused by cancer in the bladder, kidney or prostate (in men) so should not be ignored.
Urinary Symptoms in Men
Some men may experience urinary symptoms such as frequency of urination and a weak flow and should seek advice from their GP. 40% of men over 60 years of age have Benign Prostatic Hyperplasia (an enlarged prostate). Investigations will include a digital examination of the prostate via the back passage, a flow test to establish the rate of flow and a PSA (prostate specific antigen) blood test. PSA is a natural protein that leaks out of the prostate into the bloodstream and is raised; when the prostate is enlarged, in the presence of cancer of the prostate, if there is an infection, and if you have a urinary catheter. Sometimes the raised level just appears for no particular reason which may be normal for you. If the PSA is raised in the absence of infection, you will most likely be advised to have prostate biopsies to exclude the diagnosis of prostate cancer.