Renal Cancer: Causes & Symptoms

Renal Cancer: Causes & Symptoms
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  • 0:02 Being Able to Feel Cancer
  • 0:28 Renal Cell Carcinoma
  • 1:35 Causes & Signs of RCC
  • 4:08 Diagnosis & Treatment of RCC
  • 4:52 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Artem Cheprasov
Renal cell carcinoma (RCC) is a type of kidney cancer that will be the focus of this lesson. You will learn where it microscopically originates from, what it clinically is, and how it can physiologically impact a person's body.

Being Able to Feel Cancer

Most often, cancer results in a growth of some sort. This growth, in the case of something like a melanoma, can be seen and felt on the skin. Other times a tumor cannot be seen nor felt, and this is especially true if the tumor is growing inside of you. There are exceptions to this rule, however, particularly in advanced stages of cancer occurring inside of the body, as this lesson on kidney cancer will help to point out.

Renal Cell Carcinoma

Kidney cancer, more technically sometimes called renal cancer, is a term for several different and unique types of malignant neoplasms of the kidney. A malignant neoplasm is just a fancy term for cancer. The most common form of kidney cancer in adults is known as renal cell carcinoma, or RCC.

RCC arises from the proximal tubule of the kidney's nephron. The nephrons are the functional units of the kidneys that help to filter blood and form urine. The proximal tubule is the part of the nephron that receives fluid initially filtered by the kidney's glomerulus. The proximal tubule helps to reabsorb a lot of nutrients back into circulation so they're not wasted in the process of urine formation.

In a very simple sense, you can think of the nephron as a filter, any filter, in a much bigger piece of machinery, like a car, fridge, or humidifier. Of course our big piece of machinery is the kidney, and the nephron, like any part of a filter, helps to regulate the flow of substances past its location.

Causes and Signs of RCC

RCC has been found to be more likely to develop in smokers. Particularly, the risk of increase occurs in a dose-dependent fashion, meaning it's a situation in which a change in the amount of a substance administered results in a change in effect or outcome.

In a simpler way, the more you smoke, the higher the chances that you will develop RCC. If you smoke more than your neighbor smokes, your chances of getting RCC are higher than your neighbor's despite the fact that both of you smoke. Other risk factors for the development of RCC include obesity and hypertension (which is known as high blood pressure).

What's more important to consider is what this type of cancer does. In many cases, RCC is not discovered until the advanced stages of disease, as it can lay dormant and asymptomatic for a long time as it's getting worse and worse. Classically, the three signs (or triad) associated with RCC are:

  • Hematuria, which is blood in the urine.
  • Flank pain (pain in the area between the ribs and hips).
  • A palpable mass in the flank or abdomen, especially in advanced stages of cancer, meaning the cancer has grown so much that a doctor will be able to feel the enlargement with their fingers (a process called palpation).

What's worse is that RCC not only causes the three problems above but also causes different types of paraneoplastic syndrome. This refers to a cancer that produces substances that alter the body's functions, although the alteration in function does not occur as a result of the growth or spread of the cancer itself.

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