Renal cell carcinoma is a condition which causes cancer cells to develop in the tubules of your kidney, paving the way to kidney cancer. These tubes help filter the waste which is processed from your blood, then converted into urine. A metastatic renal cell carcinoma condition develops when cancer spreads beyond the kidney and affects the lymph system, other organs, and even your bones.
The spreading of cancer cells is possible through a process called metastasis which results in the cancer cells spreading through one of three different ways:
- The cancer cells can enter the bloodstream which can be then easily carried to any organ in the body, thus causing widespread degeneration of healthy cells triggered through the source.
- Cancer cells can enter the lymph system. The lymph system is a network of tissues and organs, to process and help the body evacuate toxins, waste and unwanted materials. It is also responsible for transporting lymph fluid which contains healthy white blood cells to tackle infections. Cancer cells can easily use this interconnected network to migrate to other vital organs.
- Cancer cells can spread through the tissues surrounding the affected areas resulting in metastatic renal cell carcinoma.
In its early stages, metastatic renal cell carcinoma is not very easy to identify. It is only when the signs and symptoms are noticeable, the condition develops. Symptoms include:
- Experiencing night sweats.
- Swelling in the ankles.
- Suffering from fever, with resulting fatigue and weight loss.
- Noticeable lumps on your back or side.
- Pain in the lower back.
- Blood in your urine.
Advanced stages of metastasis will affect vital organs in your body when cancer starts spreading to commonly affected sites like bones, liver, lungs, brain, adrenal glands with noticeable symptoms that include:
- Pain and fractures in bones.
- Headaches, seizures, and dizziness due to cancer cells spreading to the brain.
- Breathing problems when cancer starts spreading through your lungs.
- Health concerns like jaundice when the cancer has spread to the liver.
The cancer cells have ways of spreading through the different systems in your body which is why metastatic renal cell carcinoma is classified into four different stages of kidney cancer:
- Stage 1 and 2: Cancer has affected your kidneys which is a condition termed as Renal cell carcinoma.
- Stage 3: Cancer has started to spread through the lymph system affecting vital organs in the vicinity which is when the condition transitions into advanced stages of metastatic renal cell carcinoma.
- Stage 4: Cancer has now spread beyond the general affected area spreading to major organs in your body.
Diagnosis of metastatic renal cell carcinoma includes a physical examination while medical professionals review your medical history for signs of kidney damage. Lab tests are conducted to determine the health of kidneys by a process called urinalysis. Finally, imaging tests like CT scans and MRI are done to assess the severity of the condition.