We may not hear a lot about kidney cancer but it is the twelfth most common cancer in the world. (1) Kidney cancer symptoms aren’t always straightforward, especially in the begining stages. This can make it difficult to diagnose.
Kidney cancer includes cancer of the whole organ itself (renal cell carcinoma) and renal pelvis cancer, a rarer form that occurs in the center part of the kidney (the renal pelvis). Approximately 340,000 new cases of kidney cancer occur each year worldwide. The overall incidence of new cases of kidney cancer, however, has plateaued over the last several years. (2)
Research has found the following primary causes of kidney cancer:
- Cigarette smoking
- Medications containing phenacitin and cyclophosphamide (3, 4, 5)
- Obesity – the World Cancer Research Fund International states:“…about 24% of kidney cancer cases could be prevented in the USA if everyone had a healthy weight. The estimate was about 19% for the UK, 13% for Brazil and 8% for China.” (6)
- Polycystic kidney disease
- Lifestyle – diet, lack of regular physical activity, occupational exposure to toxins (7):“RCC [renal cell cancer] may also be due, in part, to unhealthy lifestyle factors that have been on the increase over the past several decades,” write a 2001 study. (8)
How Your Kidneys Work
We have two kidneys, located just below the rib cage on either side of the spine. Each are about the size of a fist.
Their function is to filter waste and toxins out of the blood, turning them into urine. The urine then travels through the ureters to the bladder, which holds urine until passed out of the body through the urethra.
Every day, the kidneys filter 120-150 quarts of blood and another 50 quarts of other fluids. (9) Kidneys also regulate the amount of salt, potassium, and acids in the body. They also secrete hormones that regulate blood pressure and the metabolism of calcium, metabolize vitamin D from other body chemicals, and promote the creation of red blood cells. (10)
Each kidney contains approximately one million tiny filters called nephrons that contain even smaller filters that allow small liquid molecules to pass through but block larger molecules (such as blood cells and proteins) to return to the bloodstream. The liquids then pass through tubes that further filter the liquid, returning nutrients to the blood and sending waste down the line for processing as urine. (11)
Without your kidneys (you need one fully-functioning kidney to survive), your body cannot eliminate waste and it becomes septic.
11 Kidney Cancer Symptoms
Kidney cancer often goes undiagnosed because the signs of kidney cancer often don’t manifest until later stages. It’s common for a tumor to be found when examining for other illness or when certain seemingly separate conditions exist. (12) It’s important, therefore, to know the subtle kidney cancer symptoms so that if it occurs, it can be caught early and treated.
1. Blood in Your Urine
Because the kidneys filter blood and other bodily fluids, forming urine from the waste, blood in the urine (hematuria) is one of the most obvious kidney cancer symptoms. However, other conditions can also result in blood in the urine, such as kidney stones or a urinary tract infection. (13) In fact, blood in the urine is most often caused by something other than kidney cancer. (
In fact, blood in the urine is most often caused by something other than kidney cancer. (14) If your urine is regularly red, pink, or brownish over the course of a week or two, however, it’s wise to see your healthcare provider to check it out.
2. Pain in Your Back and Sides
The kidneys sit next to your spine, so naturally, kidney disorders can cause back pain. In fact, pressure from a tumor can cause pain in the back and side(s) of the torso that doesn’t go away in a short period of time. (15)
3. Chronic Fatigue
There are many possible causes of fatigue. When it comes to cancer of all kinds, however:
When it comes to cancer of all kinds, however:
“Fatigue is one of the most common and debilitating symptoms experienced by patients with cancer. Cancer-related fatigue (CRF) is characterized by feelings of tiredness, weakness, and lack of energy, and is distinct from the “normal” drowsiness experienced by healthy individuals in that it is not relieved by rest or sleep. It occurs both as a consequence of the cancer itself and as a side effect of cancer treatment…CRF may be an early symptom of malignant disease and is reported by as many as 40% of patients at diagnosis,” writes The Oncologist. (16)
4. Weight Loss
Unexplained weight loss can be due to something as simple as stress or it can be a symptom of more serious illness. When cancer affects the digestive system (of which the kidneys are a part), the processing and elimination of waste are impacted. Appetite may decrease without you really noticing because you just don’t feel like eating. (18)
5. Odd Blood Work
As mentioned, kidney cancer symptoms don’t often appear at the genesis of the disease. Blood and other diagnostic tests (e.g., ultrasound) administered for other reasons may return suspect results that indicate further testing is required. A sign of kidney cancer is high calcium levels in the blood. (19)
6. A Lump in Your Side
A tumor in the kidney can push out muscle and connective tissue as it grows. A palpable lump that appears on either side around the base of your ribcage, in your mid-to-lower back, or in your abdomen can indicate a tumor. (20) The pressure caused by the tumor can translate to lower back or abdominal pain. (21)
7. A Fever that Just Won’t Quit
Fever is a natural indication that your immune system is working overtime to fight infection. Most fevers disappear after a couple of days, once the body has the infection under control. Persistent or recurrent fever isn’t necessarily a sign of kidney cancer but it is definitely one of the most apparent. (22) Whenever a fever occurs and lingers with no identifiable causal connection such as flu or infection, it’s time to seek professional attention.
8. Swelling of the Legs and Ankles
Edema is the accumulation of fluid in the body’s tissues, especially the extremities. Swelling caused by edema can be a tell-tale kidney cancer symptom, as impaired kidney function often means that sodium in the body isn’t adequately eliminated and builds up, causing you to retain water. (23)
9. High Blood Pressure
Medical research on kidney cancer symptoms has found a connection between hypertension (high blood pressure) and renal cell carcinoma. In a 2009 study, 79.3% of people with kidney cancer also experienced high blood pressure. Additionally, cardiovascular disease is a risk factor for kidney cancer; in this particular study, the data suggested that renal cell carcinoma can cause hypertension. (24)
Because the kidneys play a role in the processes that create new red blood cells, the anemia can be one of the most common kidney cancer symptoms. It’s also a common symptom of kidney dysfunction. (25) Anemia can mean either too few red blood cells or too little hemoglobin within them(26). In most cases, anemia treatment involves eating more iron-rich foods.
This condition is characterized by (27):
- persistent fatigue/lack of energy
- pale skin
- racing or irregular heartbeat
- shortness of breath
- chest pain
- frequent infections
- skin rashes
- smooth tongue
- dark urine
- abdominal pain
11. Loss of Appetite
In addition to feeling generally tired and crummy, kidney disease can cause uremia, the build-up of toxins in the blood. It’s very common to experience nausea and vomiting with uremia. (28) Stomach queasiness tends to make us not very hungry, so it’s normal to feel less hungry than usual.
Kidney Cancer Prognosis
The kidney cancer survival rate depends on the stage at which kidney cancer symptoms are recognized, the cancer is found and treatment is begun. It also depends on the general health of the individual.
Additionally, most cases of kidney cancer occur in people over the age of 65; at that time in life there may be other health issues that affect their kidney cancer prognosis.
“Survival rate” is defined as the number of years of life after diagnosis. It does not discount for other health factors, such as cardiovascular disease, which is common in the case of kidney cancer patients. Further, it is based on observed deaths, and not all cases are diagnosed or reported for inclusion.
Generally speaking, the advancement of cancer is divided into four stages by the American Joint Committee on Cancer. Stages are based on how much cancer is found in the body, where it’s located, how far it has spread, and the condition of the original tumor. The Stages range from 1-4: from most contained to most prevalent. (29, 30)
A separate system developed at the University of California at Los Angeles that’s specific to kidney cancer survival rates evaluates only deaths from kidney cancer and includes no other causes. It applies risk evaluations to its reporting into low-, medium-, and high-risk groups. The risk factors include evaluation of the cancer itself and the individual’s overall health. (31)
Once cancer has spread to the lymphatic system and/or other organs, kidney cancer prognosis drastically decreases:
Managing Cancer Naturally
Conventional treatment for kidney disease (including cancer) consists of radiation, surgery, toxic chemicals and, in the case of renal failure, dialysis.
“Treatment of advanced and metastatic renal cell carcinoma (RCC) was, until recently, limited to cytokine-based therapies, which are associated with modest response rates and significant toxicity, including high rates of treatment-related fatigue,” writes a 2010 study. (32)
Side effects of these treatments are almost as bad as the disease:
- feeling and being sick
- high blood pressure
- sores in the mouth, hands, feet
- loss of appetite and weight loss
- skin rash
- shortness of breath
- impaired thyroid function
- feeling and being sick
- reddening of the skin in the treatment area
- nausea and vomiting
- hair loss
If you have kidney (or any other) cancer, it is possible to avoid the prescribed aggressive and toxic treatments.
Here’s what you need to do:
- Right off the top:
- Stop smoking cigarettes
- manage high blood pressure
- achieve and maintain a healthy weight
- cut out junk food and refined sugar
- regulate salt intake
- maintain or begin a regular exercise regimen (consult with your healthcare provider first)
- What you eat impacts every function of every cell in your body. Certain foods support kidney function:
- Kidney detoxifiers: cranberries, nettle, yarrow, turmeric, parsley, dandelion, ginger, parsley
- Nature’s cancer killers: soursop, cannabis, bitter melon, apricot kernels, broccoli and watercress, jackfruit, green tea, red grapes, tomatoes, spirulina, garlic, Brazil nuts, oregano, cacao, and many more. Try a smoothie or juice with a little bit of a lot of these for best results.
- Active cannabinoid receptors reside in the kidneys. Cannabinoid deficiency in the kidneys significantly reduces renal function. (36) Consider supplementing with cannabidiol (CBD) oil.
- Manage stress
- Homeopathic cancer treatments:
“…homeopathy has efficacy in treating cancer. However, regulatory agencies are not likely to recommend homeopathic treatment any time soon because the clinical evidence is still insufficient…homeopathic drugs have proven biological action in cancer; in vitro and in vivo, in animals and humans, in the lower, as well as in the higher potencies…Since most conventional treatments continue to be associated with severe adverse and sometimes fatal effects… it would seem plausible and worthwhile, even urgent, to step up the research on… homeopathic treatment of cancer and other diseases.” (37)
- Do some research. In addition to our suggestions, there is a vast body of knowledge available to those who seek it.
Cancer is not a natural state of being. What works for one person may not work for another— but that doesn’t invalidate the approach. Monitor your kidney cancer symptoms, find a healthcare provider who supports and respects your position on alternative therapies. Don’t be bullied by conventional wisdom, as it is so often proven wrong.