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Being diagnosed with renal cancer is scary and frightening news that can affect every aspect of one’s life and plans. For most people, life stops when they receive such a diagnosis, plans are put on hold, and one becomes consumed with the meaning and implications of suffering from cancer. To regain control over the situation, manage the overwhelming and mixed emotions, and understand what is going to happen next, one needs to understand what renal cancer is.

Cancer, in general, refers to a group of diseases that manifest through a common pattern of uncontrolled growth of abnormal cells form a tumor. This abnormal process is the result of a mutation that causes cells to divide out of control while the body is unable to stop or control this growth. Normally, the cells in our body grow and divide based on the needs of each organ within the body. The distinction between normal cell growth and cancerous cell growth is that in normal conditions, the new cells grow to replace the old ones that die, while in the abnormal condition the new cells grow when the body does not need them and the old ones do not die when they should. It is the process that explains the growth of tumors.

Renal cancer refers to the growth and spread of abnormal cells within the kidney tissue. It usually starts as a small accumulation of abnormal cells (called mass) that can grow larger as time goes by and can even spread to adjacent organs with fatal results. Renal cancer can occur as a single mass in one kidney, or as multiple masses within the same kidney, or tumors within both kidneys. This needs to be examined by a Bakersfield Urologist in order to know for sure.

Kidney cancer is the third most common urologic cancer and the seventh most common type of cancer. It usually affects people with age between 55 and 75, but other age groups also can develop it including young children. It is more frequent in men than women. In 2010, it was predicted that the number of those newly diagnosed with kidney cancer would be approximately 58,420, while those that will die from it will be approximately 13,040.

Although the general term used when a malignant tumor(s) develop in the kidneys is kidney cancer, the medical field differentiates between four distinct forms: renal cell carcinoma, Wilms’ tumor, transitional cell carcinoma, and renal sarcoma. Renal cell carcinoma is the most common form of kidney cancer, and it develops in the kidney tubules that filter the blood and make urine. Wilms’ tumor is a rare form of cancer but commonly diagnosed in children age 5 and younger. Transitional cell carcinoma is a rare occurrence with a prevalence of 6-7 percent of all kidney tumors. Usually, this form of cancer is considered and treated as a bladder cancer due to its biological and risk factor differences when compared to renal cell carcinoma. Transitional cell carcinoma develops in the urothelial lining of the renal pelvis (the tissue layer that coats the urinary tract). Renal sarcoma is even more rare, accounting for less than 1 percent of all kidney tumors. It develops within the kidney’s connective tissues.

As mentioned earlier, cancer is the result of a mutation that disturbs the normal replacement process of old cells with new ones. How the mutation happens and when it occurs is not yet known, but various risk factors are considered responsible for the process. Two of the most well established risk factors are smoking cigarettes and using phenacetin-containing pain medicine or diuretic medication for long periods of time. The kidney’s role is to filter the blood and remove waste products and carcinogens. Heavy smokers or individuals with a high intake of medication expose their kidneys to higher than normal levels of carcinogen elements which damage the kidney’s filtering tissue and can result in dangerous mutations. Other factors that are linked to renal cancer include medical conditions such as: obesity, hypertension, and Hippel-Lindau disease (a genetic disorder).

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