Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Kidney cancer: hard to detect, on the rise

Kidney cancer doesn't get a lot of attention. Rick Thompson never gave it a thought until one day in 2012 when his urine turned red and he started passing blood clots. He thought it was a kidney stone.

Three days later doctors told him it was renal carcinoma, kidney cancer, in both kidneys.

"I never drank, never smoked, never did drugs," the 67-year-old Orlando retiree said, adding with a laugh: "So much for clean living."

Each year, about 65,000 American adults learn they have kidney cancer. It strikes men twice as often as women; African-Americans are at slightly greater risk than whites. Most people are diagnosed between age 50 and 60.

"The scary thing is, it has no signs or symptoms in 75 to 80 percent of cases," said Dr. Philippe Spiess, a surgeon in the department of genitourinary oncology at Moffitt Cancer Center in Tampa and one of Thompson's physicians. "I've taken out tumors the size of your forearm which produced no symptoms. I removed a tumor this morning that weighed 15 pounds, no symptoms."

Most of the time, the cancer is picked up during testing, usually a CT scan or MRI study, ordered for some other medical problem. Sometimes, patients will develop back pain that may favor the area near a kidney. A few, like Thompson, may notice that their urine looks pink or red.

The exact cause of kidney cancer is unknown, but it may be linked to smoking, using or working around pesticides and insecticides and working with chemicals and substances involved in manufacturing.

A new study released this week by the American Cancer Society says a meat-rich diet, particularly if the meat is pan fried or grilled at high temperatures or over an open flame, may increase risk. Obesity also seems to be a factor.

"Something in obesity causes an abnormal change in one of the genes responsible for kidney cancer, triggering the cancer," Spiess said, noting that obese patients tend to have a less aggressive disease and a more favorable prognosis. He said the incidence of kidney cancer has been increasing about 3 percent a year for several years, possibly due to the rising incidence of obesity in the United States.

Thompson had surgery to remove a 3 ½-inch tumor from his left kidney and a 1 ½-inch tumor from his right kidney. Because the cancer was small and hadn't spread outside the kidneys, he didn't need further treatment, just annual checkups.

Thompson retired from the aerospace giant Lockheed Martin last February after a long career as the company's resident artist and technical illustrator. His work included creating original paintings of fighter jets, helicopters, cruise missiles and members of the armed forces and their families.

He still paints, but, as a pilot and airplane mechanic, most of his time now is spent restoring a 1934 Fairchild F-24 C8C airplane he found in Alaska.

Can you prevent kidney cancer? Not really. But it probably won't hurt to keep your weight in check and limit consumption of meat cooked at high temperatures. And don't ignore pink urine or persistent back pain.

"Get that evaluated," Spiess said.

Contact Irene Maher at imaher@tampabay.com.

To learn more

The National Kidney Foundation of Florida is sponsoring a free community workshop on kidney cancer, led by Dr. Philippe Spiess, from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. Nov. 21 at Moffitt Cancer Center's Stabile Research Building, 12902 Magnolia Drive, Tampa. Register at tbtim.es/riz.

Kidney cancer: hard to detect, on the rise 11/12/15 [Last modified: Thursday, November 12, 2015 3:47pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. The Daystarter: Gov. Scott vetoes 'Whiskey and Wheaties Bill'; Culpepper's fate in 'Survivor' finale; to catch a gator poacher; your 2017 Theme Park Guide

    News

    Catching you up on overnight happenings, and what you need to know today.

    To catch a ring of poachers who targeted Florida's million-dollar alligator farming industry, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission set up an undercover operation. They created their own alligator farm, complete with plenty of real, live alligators, watched over by real, live undercover wildlife officers. It also had hidden video cameras to record everything that happened. That was two years ago, and on Wednesday wildlife officers announced that they arrested nine people on  44 felony charges alleging they broke wildlife laws governing alligator harvesting, transporting eggs and hatchlings across state lines, dealing in stolen property, falsifying records, racketeering and conspiracy. The wildlife commission released these photos of alligators, eggs and hatchlings taken during the undercover operation. [Courtesy of Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission]
  2. Trigaux: Amid a record turnout, regional technology group spotlights successes, desire to do more

    Business

    ST. PETERSBURG — They came. They saw. They celebrated Tampa Bay's tech momentum.

    A record turnout event by the Tampa Bay Technology Forum, held May 24 at the Mahaffey Theater in St. Petersburg, featured a panel of area tech executives talking about the challenges encountered during their respective mergers and acquisitions. Show, from left to right, are: Gerard Purcell, senior vice president of global IT integration at Tech Data Corp.; John Kuemmel, chief information officer at Triad Retail Media, and Chris Cate, chief operating officer at Valpak. [Robert Trigaux, Times]
  3. Take 2: Some fear Tampa Bay Next transportation plan is TBX redux

    Transportation

    TAMPA — For many, Wednesday's regional transportation meeting was a dose of deja vu.

    The Florida Department of Transportation on Monday announced that it was renaming its controversial Tampa Bay Express plan, also known as TBX. The plan will now be known as Tampa Bay Next, or TBN. But the plan remains the same: spend $60 billion to add 90 miles of toll roads to bay area interstates that are currently free of tolls. [Florida Department of Transportation]
  4. Hailed as 'pioneers,' students from St. Petersburg High's first IB class return 30 years later

    Education

    ST. PETERSBURG — The students came from all over Pinellas County, some enduring hot bus rides to a school far from home. At first, they barely knew what to call themselves. All they knew was that they were in for a challenge.

    Class of 1987 alumni Devin Brown, from left, and D.J. Wagner, world history teacher Samuel Davis and 1987 graduate Milford Chavous chat at their table.
  5. Flower boxes on Fort Harrison in Clearwater to go, traffic pattern to stay

    Roads

    I travel Fort Harrison Avenue in Clearwater often and I've noticed that the travel lanes have been rerouted to allow for what looks like flower boxes that have been painted by children. There are also a few spaces that push the travel lane to the center that have no boxes. Is this a permanent travel lane now? It …