Knowing how to read the common early warning signs of kidney cancer is very important to ensure you can seek treatment early. However, this isn’t as simple as some other kinds of cancer. Where you can self-assess yourself for testicular cancer, or have a prostate exam in minutes, kidney cancer is harder to detect.
Sometimes kidney cancer can grow quite substantially without causing any noticeable symptoms. And, because it is located in a deeper part of the body than, say, the testicles or breasts, smaller tumours are hard to detect during an examination.
That being said, there are a few key common early warning signs of kidney cancer that you should be aware of. If any of these symptoms present themselves, please don’t hesitate to get in touch for assessment.
Blood In The Urine
Blood in the urine (hematuria) is the most common symptom of kidney cancer. However, it is a common symptom of many less serious problems too, so don’t fret too much if it is something you are experiencing or have noticed in the past.
Blood being present in the urine doesn’t necessarily mean it will be red. It may be pink or a cloudy orange. Sometimes blood in the urine won’t be visible at all. If you notice any change to your urine, it is important to see your doctor for assessment. It may be the sign of another issue (such as kidneys stones or a UTI), but it may mean you have detected cancer in its early stages.
Lower Back Pain
The kidneys are located in the lower back, below the ribs. If you have kidney cancer, this is where you may be feeling pain, if any. Of course, lower back pain is very common, so it by no means immediately indicates cancer, but it may be a symptom.
Any ongoing pain (for two weeks or more) or noticeable changes to this part of the body, especially if it is only affecting one side of the body (kidney cancer rarely affects both kidneys), should be examined. Again, if it isn’t a sign of cancer, it may indicate another problem, such as an infection, which may be quite serious in its own right.
A Mass of Lump on the Side or Back of the Abdomen
A large tumour may be externally visible as a lump or mass on the side or back of the abdomen. Sometimes a tumour might not be big enough to be visible, but it may be discernable to touch. It will feel like a hardened lump.
Fatigue and Anemia
The kidneys are responsible for producing the hormone erythropoietin, which tells the body to produce red blood cells. With decreased kidney function comes a drop in red blood cell count, a condition known as anaemia. This will leave you feeling tired, short of breath, and overall not yourself.
In addition to this, cancer drains energy and disrupts metabolism, which can make you extremely lethargic, to the point where it may disrupt your day-to-day life.
Loss of Appetite and Weight Loss
Kidney cancer can affect metabolism, and that on top of fatigue and anaemia can lead to loss of appetite. Alongside a general feeling of being unwell and nagging fevers, this can result in a quick and noticeable drop in weight.
Sometimes this can happen without any drastic changes to diet. Having cancer may change the way your body burns energy and may result in weight loss that seems inexplicable.
Swollen Legs or Ankles
In cases of kidney cancer, fluid can begin to build up around the lower legs and ankles. This may be quite noticeable and make it difficult to walk or do other difficulties.
It is very important to act swiftly if you notice any symptoms. While many of the above may the related to another less serious issue, it is always smart to see your doctor to have yourself assessed as early as possible.
Dr Arianayagam is an expert in the field urological cancer. If you have any further questions about kidney cancer and would like to book an appointment, please feel free to call.
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