There are several types of cancer that can affect the kidney. Renal cell carcinoma, the most common type of kidney cancer, affects the outer layer of kidney tissue. It occurs twice as often in men as in women and most commonly affects smokers between the ages of 55 and 60. Transitional cell carcinoma, a less common type of kidney cancer, affects mostly middleaged women and is associated with the abuse of analgesic drugs, such as phenacetin. Wilms’ tumor, the most common form of kidney cancer in children, usually afflicts children under the age of 7, but has a very high cure rate.
Since kidney cancer is often mistaken for a bladder infection, many people don’t seek treatment until the condition is advanced. However, if it is diagnosed and treated before the cancer spreads to surrounding tissues, the recovery rate is high.
Signs and Symptoms
- Bloody or cloudy urine
- Pain in the lower abdomen or back
- Lump or mass in the lower back
- Appetite and weight loss
Conventional Medical Treatment
If you notice any symptoms of kidney cancer, see your physician immediately. Kidney cancer is usually diagnosed with an X-ray, CAT scan, or ultrasound examination of the abdomen. If these tests reveal any abnormalities, your doctor may take a biopsy of kidney tissue to test for malignant cells.
Treatment for kidney cancer depends on the extent of the cancer. If only a small area is affected, the mass itself may be surgically removed. If the tumor is large, the affected kidney, as well as the surrounding tissue and nearby lymph nodes, may be removed. Surgery is usually followed up with radiation or chemotherapy.
Complementary and Alternative Treatments
Traditional Chinese Medicine
Acupuncture can be used to restore energy levels within the kidney meridians as well as ease pain caused by kidney cancer. Auricular points typically targeted to relieve kidney problems are the kidney, bladder, liver, heart, and sympathy areas.
Acupressure This form of deep tissue massage can be used to strengthen the immune system by opening blocked pathways along the kidney meridians, which should increase the individual’s energy level and improve disposition.
Chinese Herbal Therapy Fu Zheng therapy is often used alongside conventional treatment methods in the fight against cancer, because it bolsters the immune system, and helps protect the body from the damaging effects of radiation and chemotherapy. Individuals who use Fu Zheng-an herbal regimen made up of atractylodes, ligustrum, codonopsis, ginseng, ganoderma, and astragalus, among others-have an increased survival rate, due to the therapy’s ability to increase T-cell functioning.
Depending upon the specific cause of an individual’s kidney cancer, an herbalist may also advocate the use of such kidney tonic formulas as Rehmannia Six, Panax Ginseng Capsules, Cerebral Tonic Pills, and Eight Immortal Long Life Pills. Because certain herbs can actually impair kidney function, they should always be prescribed by a trained professional acupuncturist.