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Can Kidney Problems Lead to Cancer?

When abnormal cells in one or both kidneys begin to divide and proliferate uncontrollably, kidney cancer begins to develop. The cells may spread to different parts of the body and develop into the tissues or organs in the vicinity.  A tumor or mass is a growth that is abnormal in the body. A tumor or mass in the kidney shows an abnormal growth there. There are benign (non-cancerous) and malignant kidney masses (cancerous). Smaller lumps have a higher chance of being benign.  The cancerous masses are mostly the larger lumps. While some tumors may advance slowly, others may advance more quickly or aggressively. Aggressive tumors can develop, spread, and enlarge very quickly.

About 40% of kidney growths are tiny, localized masses. Localized refers to a tumor that has not spread from its original location. Tumors fall into three primary categories:

Renal cell carcinomas (RCC)

They are the cancers of the renal cells (RCC). RCC forms the majority of malignant kidney tumors.  Renal cell cancer, which starts in the lining of small tubes inside the kidney, is most prevalent in adults. RCC can develop in one kidney as a single tumor or in two or more kidneys as multiple tumors.

Benign kidney tumors

Around 20% of kidney tumors that are removed are benign. This class includes around nine identified tumors. Despite the fact that some of them can get fairly big, they are virtually always benign and do not spread to other organs.

The Wilms tumor

Wilms tumors are uncommon in adults and more frequently occur in children. 

Kidney diseases and cancer

Researchers have found that renal dysfunction may raise a person’s risk of developing cancer as well as their likelihood of dying from cancer.

In order to classify people according to their kidney function, the study, which was published in the American Journal of Kidney Diseases, used healthcare databases in Ontario, Canada.

The Ontario Health Insurance Plan, which provides single-payer, publicly funded healthcare to 14 million inhabitants, was the focus of the study.

Data from blood tests or records identifying dialysis or kidney transplant recipients were used by researchers. The study then examined their likelihood of developing cancer and passing away from it.

Data found in the study

According to the findings of their study, those with renal dysfunction may be more susceptible to developing cancer and may also have a higher chance of dying from the condition.

The study, which was written up in the American Journal of Kidney Diseases, categorized patients based on how well their kidneys were functioning using health databases in Ontario, Canada.

The 14 million individuals who get single-payer, publicly financed healthcare under the Ontario Health Insurance Plan were the focus of the study.

The scientists use the data from blood tests or records identifying people who have dialysis or who had kidney transplants. The study then examined their likelihood of both receiving a cancer diagnosis and passing away from cancer.

The connection 

Cancer risk increases by chronic renal disease. On the other hand, cancer can result in chronic kidney disease either directly or indirectly as a result of treatment side effects. According to research, doctors must develop better methods for identifying and treating cancer in patients with kidney illness. Immune system function may be compromised in patients with kidney disease, who also frequently have an underlying level of inflammation. Kidney malignancies, particularly those linked to the immune system, may also go undiagnosed in these patients. Studies have also shown that kidney patients have cardiovascular risk factors, therefore beyond treating the kidney illness itself, clinicians focus most of their attention on preventing negative cardiovascular outcomes.

How cancer treatment affects kidneys?

The study also looked at the fact that many cancer medications can damage kidneys, making it challenging for renal patients who simultaneously have cancer to find an effective cancer treatment. As the medications have restrictions on the eligibility of renal function, even patients with modestly impaired kidney function are excluded from clinical trials for cancer. Patients frequently have a limited number of options. While the primary cause of death in patients with chronic kidney disease has historically been thought to be cardiovascular disease, the study’s authors noted that “the proportion of cancer-related death may be under-appreciated in this population, particularly in those with mild-moderate kidney dysfunction.”

Early signs and Symptoms of Kidney Cancer

Early signs of kidney cancer can be very feeble and can go unnoticed. However, there are some signs and symptoms you should look out for, such as:

  • Urine with blood 
  • Lumps on the back or sides
  • Unexplained back pain 
  • Fatigue
  • Loss of appetite 
  • Unexplained weight loss 
  • Fever that occurs very frequently
  • Anemia 
  • Blood in cough 
  • Pain in the bones

Although kidney cancer (or another type of cancer) might induce these symptoms, other benign disorders may also cause similar symptoms. For instance, a kidney stone or a bladder or urinary tract infection are the most typical causes of blood in the urine. However, if you have any of these signs, you should consult a doctor so that they can identify and address the cause if necessary. 

The major objective of treating kidney cancer is to rid you of the malignancy and, whenever possible, to safeguard kidney function. Protecting kidney function is very crucial for patients with one functioning kidney or kidney diseases.

While some people will never require surgery. Surgery could be the best option for certain people. The tumor may require a biopsy in some cases in order to determine how aggressive it might be. And so, the appropriate treatment can start after this. 


The signs and symptoms of kidney cancer will vary for each patient, and the early symptoms can go unnoticed in many cases. If any of the above-mentioned symptoms prolong, it is important to consult a medical professional at the earliest. This will help in an early diagnosis, treatment and increased chances of cure and survival.


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