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Dr. Thomas Hutson: Clearing the Record on Kidney Cancer

April 07, 2020

Thomas Hutson, D.O., Pharm.D., genitourinary oncologist specializing in urologic cancers at Texas Oncology–Baylor Charles A. Sammons Cancer Center discusses kidney cancer misconceptions, reducing risk, and treatment options.

What is a common misconception about kidney cancer?
The biggest misconception is that kidney cancer is rare. It’s not as uncommon as was once thought. The American Cancer Society estimates that more than 73,000 new cases of kidney cancer will be diagnosed in the United States in 2020. Incidence of kidney cancer in the U.S. has been increasing, largely due to an increase in the use of CT scans and other screening methods that aid in early detection. Often, patients seek care for other suspected health issues, such as kidney stones, prompting screening for kidney cancer. Because of screening advancements, we’re able to diagnose kidney cancer at an earlier stage.

How can people reduce their risk of kidney cancer?
Incidence of kidney cancer is closely associated with lifestyle factors, such as smoking tobacco, obesity, family history, and health history, including urinary tract complications and kidney disease. People can reduce their risk by avoiding cigarettes, eating a balanced diet, and maintaining a healthy weight. For patients with a family history, we recommended genetic testing and vigilance.

How are the symptoms of kidney cancer different from other types of cancer?
Most kidney cancer cases are asymptomatic. Frequently, patients have very large tumors, but do not present any symptoms. Kidney tumors grow slowly, and often by the time patients have severe symptoms, the cancer is late stage. When patients do present symptoms, these can include blood in the urine, back or kidney pain, which can sometimes feel like a kidney stone, weight loss, and night sweats. Anyone experiencing these symptoms should see a doctor immediately.

In addition to diagnosing more patients at an earlier stage, kidney cancer is becoming more treatable. Because there are many new therapies to treat kidney cancer, patients are living longer."

How has kidney cancer treatment evolved?
If kidney cancer is caught early, there’s a very high chance of better outcomes. Immunotherapy has also shown success in treating metastatic cases, showing complete responses in many patients. We’re fortunate at Texas Oncology to be offering these treatment options.

For upcoming webinars visit www.TexasOncologyFoundation.org.