Kidney cancer awareness month is in March. March is the month dedicated to raising awareness about kidney cancer, its symptoms, risks, treatment options, and prevention. Recognizing kidney cancer awareness month helps promote education and early detection of this disease.
Kidney cancer, also known as renal cancer, is one of the top ten most common cancers in the United States. According to the American Cancer Society, an estimated 76,080 new cases of kidney cancer will be diagnosed in 2022. Kidney cancer awareness month aims to spread information about this disease so that people can recognize the symptoms and get diagnosed early, when treatment is most effective. March was chosen as kidney cancer awareness month because it contains the birth anniversary of William Peyton, the founder of the National Kidney Foundation. Let’s take a closer look at kidney cancer and the importance of kidney cancer awareness month.
Overview of Kidney Cancer
The kidneys are two bean-shaped organs located on either side of the spine behind the abdomen. Each kidney is about the size of a fist. The kidneys filter waste products from the blood while retaining important nutrients and minerals. They also regulate fluid levels and produce hormones that control blood pressure, red blood cell production, and calcium absorption.
Kidney cancer begins when healthy kidney cells change and grow uncontrollably, forming a mass called a tumor. A tumor can be cancerous or benign. A cancerous tumor is malignant, meaning it can grow and spread to other parts of the body. A benign tumor means the tumor can grow but will not spread.
The most common type of kidney cancer is renal cell carcinoma, which begins in the lining of the small tubes inside the kidneys. Other less common types include transitional cell carcinoma, which develops in the renal pelvis, and Wilms tumor, which is most common in children.
Kidney cancer is among the 10 most common cancers in both men and women. The American Cancer Society estimates about 13 out of 100,000 men and women will be diagnosed with kidney cancer in their lifetime. The risk increases with age, with most cases occurring in people over 60.
Symptoms of Kidney Cancer
Early kidney cancer often has no signs or symptoms. As the cancer grows, it may cause the following:
- Blood in the urine
- Low back pain on one side (not caused by injury)
- A mass or lump in the abdomen or lower back
- Fatigue (tiredness)
- Loss of appetite
- Weight loss not caused by dieting
- Fever that is not caused by infection
- Swelling of the ankles and legs
- Anemia (low red blood cell counts)
These symptoms could be caused by other conditions as well. See a doctor if you experience any of these symptoms to determine the cause. Catching kidney cancer early greatly improves treatment success.
Risk Factors for Kidney Cancer
Researchers are still studying the exact causes of kidney cancer. However, the following risk factors are linked to an increased chance of developing the disease:
- Smoking cigarettes
- Workplace exposure to certain substances like asbestos, cadmium, benzene, organic solvents, or hydrocarbon fuels
- Being over 60 years old
- End stage renal disease
- Certain genetic conditions like von Hippel-Lindau disease
- Having close family members with kidney cancer
- History of high blood pressure or taking blood pressure medications
You are at a higher risk if you smoke or are obese. Quitting smoking and achieving a healthy weight are steps you can take to lower your kidney cancer risk. Protect yourself from workplace exposures by following safety guidelines. See a doctor about any ongoing symptoms or if you have a family history of the disease. Catching kidney cancer early makes treatment more effective.
Detection and Diagnosis of Kidney Cancer
There are currently no recommended screening tests for kidney cancer in people not at high risk. That’s why recognizing the symptoms is important. Some of the methods doctors use to diagnose kidney cancer include:
- Medical history and physical exam to feel for any masses or fluid in the abdomen
- Urinalysis to check for blood in the urine
- Blood tests to evaluate kidney function
- Imaging tests like CT scan, MRI, or ultrasound to look at the kidneys
- Biopsy to remove kidney tissue for examination under a microscope
If testing reveals a suspicious mass, your doctor will refer you to a urologist or oncologist who specializes in kidney cancer for further evaluation and staging. Staging means determining the extent of the cancer – if it is only in the kidney or if it has spread beyond. Treatment and prognosis depend on the stage of kidney cancer.
Treatment Options for Kidney Cancer
Treatment options for kidney cancer include:
- Surgery to remove part or all of the kidney (nephrectomy)
- Using extreme cold or heat to destroy cancer cells (cryoablation and radiofrequency ablation)
- Medications to target cancer cells like sunitinib (Sutent) and pazopanib (Votrient)
- Immunotherapy drugs to boost the immune system to fight cancer
- Targeted therapies that block specific pathways that cancer cells use to grow
- Radiation therapy using high energy beams to kill cancer cells
- Chemotherapy drugs to destroy rapidly dividing cancer cells
If caught early while the cancer is only in the kidneys, the 5-year survival rate for kidney cancer is 92%. However, the survival rate drops if the cancer spreads. The type of treatment or combination of treatments will depend on the stage of cancer.
Prevention of Kidney Cancer
Research into kidney cancer prevention is ongoing. There’s no guaranteed way to prevent kidney cancer, but you may lower your risk by:
- Avoiding tobacco use
- Maintaining a healthy weight
- Eating lots of fruits and vegetables
- Avoiding workplace chemical exposures
- Taking medicine to control high blood pressure
- Limiting analgesic medications like aspirin and ibuprofen
Quitting smoking and losing weight are two of the best things you can do to prevent kidney cancer. Also, get any symptoms checked by a doctor right away. When caught early, kidney cancer is often curable.
The History of Kidney Cancer Awareness Month
Kidney cancer awareness month was started by the National Kidney Foundation. The National Kidney Foundation is the largest nonprofit organization dedicated to the awareness, prevention, and treatment of kidney disease. The organization was founded in 1950 by William Peyton after he was diagnosed with kidney failure.
March is significant because March 17th was William Peyton’s birthday. Peyton was determined to call attention to kidney disease, a condition that was under-recognized at the time. He began raising funds and lobbying for research. This led to the formation of the National Kidney Foundation to promote kidney disease awareness and education.
In 2006, the National Kidney Foundation officially designated March as National Kidney Month. In 2012, this was updated to National Kidney Cancer Awareness Month. Activities during the month include campaigns to educate the public about the risks, symptoms, and treatments for kidney cancer.
Kidney Cancer Awareness Month Activities
Many organizations participate in kidney cancer awareness month by promoting the following activities:
- Hosting walks, runs, and fundraising events to support kidney cancer research and assistance programs for patients
- Educating the public through campaigns about kidney cancer risk factors, symptoms, screening, and treatment
- Providing free kidney cancer screenings in March
- Holding cooking demonstrations focused on healthy, kidney-friendly foods
- Offering meetings and online forums for kidney cancer patients and survivors to connect
- Distributing informational resources and materials about kidney cancer
Major national organizations that promote kidney cancer awareness month include:
- American Cancer Society
- American Society of Clinical Oncology
- Kidney Cancer Association
- Renal Cell Carcinoma Consortium
- Urology Care Foundation
Government health agencies like the National Cancer Institute (NCI) and local hospitals also provide education on kidney cancer during this month.
How to Observe Kidney Cancer Awareness Month
Everyone can participate in kidney cancer awareness month by:
- Learning about kidney cancer risk factors, signs, diagnosis, and treatment
- Spreading kidney cancer awareness on social media
- Making healthy lifestyle changes to reduce kidney cancer risk
- Replacing smoking and tobacco use with healthier alternatives
- Scheduling cancer screening appointments if at high risk
- Attending fundraising or awareness events in your community
- Making a donation to a kidney cancer nonprofit organization
- Volunteering for an organization that supports kidney cancer patients
- Wearing kidney cancer awareness ribbons and colors
The kidney cancer awareness ribbon is orange. Wearing orange is a great way to promote kidney cancer awareness. You can also stay involved year-round by joining advocacy groups working to advance kidney cancer research and treatment.
Kidney Cancer Statistics
Here are some key statistics on kidney cancer from the American Cancer Society:
- An estimated 76,080 new cases of kidney cancer will be diagnosed in the United States in 2022.
- About 13,780 people will die from this disease in 2022.
- Kidney cancer rates have been rising on average 1.1% each year over the last 10 years.
- The median age at diagnosis is 64.
- Kidney cancer is among the top 10 most common cancers in both men and women.
- Over 90% of kidney cancers are renal cell carcinomas.
- The 5-year survival rate for kidney cancer is about 74%. Early diagnosis improves survival.
Kidney cancer rates vary by race and ethnicity as well:
|1 in 47
|1 in 81
|1 in 108
|American Indian/Alaska Native
|1 in 53
|1 in 100
These statistics demonstrate why raising awareness about kidney cancer risk factors, screening, and symptoms during Kidney Cancer Awareness Month is so important.
Future Directions in Kidney Cancer
Researchers and doctors are making progress on many fronts to improve kidney cancer treatment and survival:
- Developing targeted therapies that specifically block the growth of cancerous kidney cells
- Using immunotherapy to harness the body’s immune system to fight kidney cancer
- Identifying ways to limit side effects from kidney cancer treatments
- Exploring the potential of combinational therapies
- Discovering genetic and molecular markers that can help guide treatment choices
- Improving imaging techniques to better detect kidney cancer
- Advancing minimally invasive surgical techniques for kidney removal
- Evaluating ways to promote kidney cancer prevention
Doctors are also making progress identifying people at high genetic risk for kidney cancer. This allows for closer monitoring to detect any cancer early. All of this exciting research provides hope for better long-term outcomes.
Kidney cancer awareness month in March promotes education about a disease that impacts thousands of lives each year. Understanding the risks and symptoms allows for early detection, which greatly improves survival. During kidney cancer awareness month, get involved by wearing orange, attending events, volunteering, fundraising, and spreading awareness on social media. Knowledge is power when it comes to taking charge of your health.