kidney cancer types stages risks

Understanding Kidney Cancer in Australia: Types, Stages, and Risk Factors

Kidney cancer is among the top 10 most common cancers in Australia, affecting thousands of people each year. As with any cancer, early detection and treatment are crucial for better outcomes. This blog post aims to provide an overview of kidney cancer, including its types, stages, and risk factors, to increase awareness and encourage early diagnosis and intervention.

Types of Kidney Cancer

There are several types of kidney cancer, with the most common being renal cell carcinoma (RCC), accounting for approximately 90% of cases. RCC originates in the lining of the renal tubules, which are responsible for filtering waste and producing urine. The main subtypes of RCC are:

  1. Clear cell RCC: The most common subtype, accounting for 70-80% of RCC cases. It is characterized by cells that appear clear or pale under a microscope.
  2. Papillary RCC: The second most common subtype, representing 10-15% of RCC cases. This type is characterized by finger-like projections of cells within the tumor.
  3. Chromophobe RCC: A rare subtype, accounting for 5% of RCC cases, characterized by large, pale cells with distinct cell borders.

Another less common type of kidney cancer is transitional cell carcinoma (TCC), which begins in the renal pelvis and ureter’s lining. TCC represents around 5-10% of kidney cancer cases.

Stages of Kidney Cancer

Staging is a crucial aspect of kidney cancer diagnosis and treatment, as it helps determine the best course of action. Kidney cancer stages are based on tumor size, lymph node involvement, and the presence of metastases. The stages are as follows:

  1. Stage I: The tumor is confined to the kidney and is smaller than 7 cm in diameter.
  2. Stage II: The tumor is still limited to the kidney but is larger than 7 cm in diameter.
  3. Stage III: The tumor has either grown into a major vein or surrounding tissue or has spread to nearby lymph nodes but not to other organs.
  4. Stage IV: The cancer has metastasized to other organs or distant lymph nodes.

Risk Factors for Kidney Cancer

Several risk factors can increase the likelihood of developing kidney cancer, including:

  1. Age: Kidney cancer risk increases with age, with most cases diagnosed in people over 60 years old.
  2. Gender: Men are at a higher risk of developing kidney cancer compared to women.
  3. Smoking: Tobacco use significantly increases the risk of kidney cancer, and quitting can reduce this risk over time.
  4. Obesity: Excess body weight is associated with an increased risk of kidney cancer, as fat tissue may produce hormones that promote tumor growth.
  5. High blood pressure: Hypertension is a known risk factor for kidney cancer, though it is unclear whether it is a direct cause or a result of medications used to treat it.
  6. Family history: Having a close relative with kidney cancer may increase the risk, especially in cases of inherited genetic syndromes, such as von Hippel-Lindau disease or hereditary papillary renal cell carcinoma.
  7. Chronic kidney disease: People with reduced kidney function or on long-term dialysis have an increased risk of developing kidney cancer.

Understanding kidney cancer types, stages, and risk factors is essential for early detection and intervention in Australia. By being aware of potential risk factors, individuals can make lifestyle changes and consult with healthcare professionals to reduce their chances of developing kidney cancer. Regular check-ups and monitoring are crucial for those at an elevated risk, enabling early diagnosis and the most effective treatment options.

Dr Richard Haddad performs surgery at Norwest Private Hospital, Sydney Adventist Hospital, Chris O’Brien Lifehouse and Strathfield Private Hospital.

Photo by Robina Weermeijer on Unsplash