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Understanding the Disease

Advanced Renal Cell Carcinoma (aRCC)

Renal cell carcinoma (RCC) is the most common type of kidney cancer. Advanced RCC is when the cancer has spread to other places in the body. In order to understand the causes of advanced kidney cancer, it may be helpful to understand the role of your kidneys.

Understanding the role of your kidneys

The kidneys are a filtering system in your body. The kidneys filter waste and extra water from your blood. The filtered, clean blood leaves the kidney and circulates in your body. The waste products and extra water are removed in urine.

Understanding how a tumor starts to grow

Like the rest of your body, your kidneys are made from cells. Cells divide to make new cells when needed. They stop dividing when there are enough cells. But sometimes cells do not stop dividing.

If cells continue to divide after there are enough cells, the extra mass formed by these cells may become cancer cells. These cells can build up into a tumor (a growth or mass of cells) that is either benign (a growth that is not cancer) or malignant (a cancerous tumor that grows and spreads through the body).

What are the causes of kidney cancer?

All of the cells in your body contain genes. Genes contain the instructions that tell cells what to do. Cells become cancerous when something changes, or mutates, those instructions. This mutation causes the cells to keep dividing, making more and more cancer cells.

If you have advanced kidney cancer, cancer cells from your kidneys have spread through your body and formed tumors in other places.

Unlike some other diseases, there is no one cause of advanced kidney cancer. Researchers think that genetic factors increase your risk of getting kidney cancer. They also think that nongenetic factors, such as smoking and obesity, may be involved. Scientists have studied advanced kidney cancer for years, but do not completely understand how it develops. Continuing research may eventually provide answers.

What are the risk factors for kidney disease?

Knowing some of the risks of kidney cancer is an important way to be proactive about your health.

The most common kidney cancers are renal cell carcinomas. While there is no single known cause of kidney cancer, the risk factors include:

  • Age: As a person gets older, the risk of renal cell carcinoma increases. This disease occurs mostly in people older than 55 years old
  • Gender: Men are more likely than women to develop renal cell carcinoma
  • Smoking: People who smoke have a higher risk. The good news is that quitting smoking can reduce your risk
  • Obesity: People who are overweight have an increased risk of renal cell carcinoma
  • High blood pressure: Although the reason is unclear, high blood pressure seems to increase the risk of renal cell carcinoma
  • Chemical exposure in the workplace: People who work with certain chemicals (such as asbestos, cadmium, and trichloroethylene) may have an increased risk of renal cell carcinoma
  • Treatment for kidney failure: People with chronic kidney failure who have been treated with long-term dialysis, and people who have had a kidney transplant and take immunosuppressant medication have a higher risk of developing renal cell carcinoma
  • Genetic factors: Certain inherited disorders make a person more likely to develop one or more types of renal cell carcinomas

It is estimated that over 64,000 people in the United States will be diagnosed with cancer of the kidney in 2012. Currently, there are more than 200,000 kidney cancer survivors living in the United States.

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Learn ways to stay motivated during treatment

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A diagnosis is not the end of the world and importantly, that it does not have to be the end of normal life.

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