Kidney cancer spreads through the body in 20-30% of cases. Metastases are found in lymph nodes and distant organs.
The most aggressive forms of the disease are clear-cell and chromophobe carcinoma. They form secondary tumors most often.
Oncologists distinguish 3 causes of cancer:
- not timely initiation of therapy;
- incorrect protocol of procedures;
- inaccurate definition of the type of malignant cells and improper selection of medicines.
Secondary tumors are found in:
- lungs (43%);
- liver (20%);
- bones (20%);
- brain (9%);
- organs of the abdominal cavity (9%).
Kidney cancer spread
Malignant cells begin to spread on the 3-4 stages of the disease. During this period the tumor increases and grows into the vasculature.
Cancerous cells spread in 3 ways:
- grow into the nearby vessels;
- transfer to the lymph nodes through the lymph flow;
- move with the blood in the vessels and get into the distant structures.
Metastatic kidney cancer in the lungs
Metastases in the lungs are up to 0.6-2.2 cm nodes. They are located singly, less often they create the large formations.
Symptoms of pulmonary involvement
Symptoms at this stage may be local (from the affected structures) and systemic (from the whole body).
Local symptoms include:
- chest pain;
- discharge of blood during coughing;
- difficulty breathing.
The symptoms of pulmonary involvement may not appear when the nodules are small in size.
- weight loss;
- night sweats.
Prognosis for metastatic pulmonary involvement
The 5-year survival rate is 8-10%. 8-10 people out of 100 after the diagnosis have been living for 5 years or more.
The survival rate is increased to 15% if lung metastases are surgically removed.
To determine the location and size of the affected area:
- X-ray helps to identify the nodules location;
- fluorography helps detect changes in tissues and determine which part of the lung is involved in the tumor process;
- computer tomography, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), positron emission computed tomography (PET-CT) help to analyze the structure and diameter of secondary tumors.
Metastatic pulmonary involvement treatment plan
- Surgery. Usually, the oncologists perform the resection of the lung. During the procedure, the surgeon removes the affected part of the lung. Operation is not provided in cases of multiple tumors;
- Targeted therapy. It is based on taking medications that affect malignant cells without harming the human health. The method is used to control residual cancer cells;
- Immunotherapy. This technique includes taking medicines that activate the human immune system. After that, the immune cells begin to destroy the tumor on their own. The method is prescribed only after the genetic screening. Immunotherapy helps to know the nature of the disease and choose the right treatment option;
- Chemotherapy. Oncologists prescribe it in cases of an inoperable tumor. Chemotherapy drugs decrease the disease development, but also affect healthy cells. That’s why this type of therapy causes such side effects as hair loss, anemia, weakness.
Renal cell carcinoma bone metastases
In 25-31% of cases, kidney cancer spreads to the bones. Most often it affects the hip joints, ribs, and vertebrae. Malignant cells create densities and build-ups or destroy tissues.
Symptoms of kidney cancer bone metastases
The main symptoms of pathology are severe pain in the bones, frequent fractures and cracks.
If the tumor is situated in the spine, it presses on the spinal cord. It can lead to paralysis.
Survival rate for patients with kidney cancer bone metastases
The 5-year survival rate is about 8%. As a rule, people with this diagnosis live for 1-1.5 years. The prognosis is unfavorable because to treat the secondary tumors in the bones with surgery is impossible.
Diagnostics of kidney cancer bone metastases
- X-ray helps to determine the location and size of the tumor;
- Scintigraphy is provided with a radioisotope preparation injected into the body and accumulated in the cancerous cells. It helps to detect them using a tomograph;
- MRI is used to determine the size and structure of the tumor. In some cases, instead of MRI, PET-CT is prescribed.
Treatment of kidney cancer bone metastases
Modern procedures help to relieve pain and improve the quality of life. The primary method is radiotherapy. Irradiation acts systematically on the affected area. If cancerous cells spread to the spine, oncologists prescribe radiosurgery using the CyberKnife system. It irradiates the tumor and metastases without affecting the healthy tissues of the body.
Kidney cancer spread to other organs
Metastases in the liver
They are usually multiple nodules in the liver. Only 10% of patients have a single tumor.
Symptoms: pain in the right upper hypochondrium, weakness, chronic fatigue, digestive problems, fever, increased sweating. Sometimes the patients face jaundice, ascites (accumulation of fluid in the abdominal cavity).
Therapy: a course of hormonal drugs, chemotherapy. Surgery is not prescribed because the secondary tumors of the liver are not operable.
Prognosis: without therapy, a person lives for 9 months. An effective treatment plan increases this period to 1.5 years.
Metastases in the brain
Symptoms depend on the part of the brain where the malignant cells develop. The most common symptoms are a headache, convulsions, reduction in vision, numbness of the limbs.
Treatment: removal of the affected area. If tumors are inoperable, radiosurgery (CyberKnife system) and radiotherapy are used.
Lifespan depends on the location and size of the tumors. Patients live approximately for 6 months - 1 year.
Patients notice kidney cancer symptoms only in the advanced stages when the disease is already spreading. It complicates the diagnostics and treatment processes. If a person is at risk group, s/he should undergo the diagnostics every year.
If the oncologists have already detected metastases, it is important to start therapy as soon as possible. Modern methods help improve the quality of life, relieve pain and allow a person to move usually. Treatment prolongs the life of a patient for 1-2 years.