Kidney cancer develops when cells start dividing uncontrollably in the kidneys, a pair of organs that remove toxins, regulate blood pressure, create certain hormones, and control salt concentrations in the body. According to the American Cancer Society, approximately 76,080 people will be diagnosed with kidney cancer in the US in 2021, and approximately 13,770 people will lose their lives to the disease. Kidney cancer, also known as renal cancer, affects older people more than younger people and men more than women.
What Causes Kidney Cancer?
As with many other cancers, the causes of kidney cancer are still largely a mystery, though the American Cancer Society describes some risk factors associated with the condition, namely cigarette smoking, obesity, a family history of the disease, and inherited conditions like von Hippel-Lindau disease, tuberous sclerosis Birt-Hogg-Dube syndrome, Cowden syndrome, and hereditary leiomyoma-renal cell carcinoma.
Are There Kidney Cancer Screenings?
Kidney cancer often presents no symptoms in its early stages, so experts generally do not advise any screenings for patients considered at low or average risk of the disease. According to the American Cancer Society, urine tests may sometimes turn up blood in the urine; while this may be a sign of kidney cancer, it can also be a sign of many other less serious or totally benign conditions. Radiological tests can sometimes detect kidney cancers, but the ACS notes that they are not totally effective at distinguishing cancerous masses from benign masses. Still, experts generally recommend these tests for patients with conditions that put them at increased risk of kidney cancer.
What Are Symptoms of Kidney Cancer?
Like many other cancers, kidney cancer often presents no symptoms in its early stages. The symptoms described by the American Cancer Society generally apply to patients with “larger” cancers. These include unplanned for weight loss, bloody urine, anemia, exhaustion, lower back pain localized on one side of the back, a loss of appetite, fever, and physical lumps in patient’s side or lower back near the kidneys.
What Tests Are There for Kidney Cancer?
After taking the patient’s medical and family histories and conducting a physical examination, a doctor who suspects kidney cancer is likely to perform various tests. These include blood tests to look for evidence in the disease—which may cause high red blood cell counts, low red blood cell counts, the proliferation of liver enzymes, and high levels of calcium in the blood—and urinalysis, which may show evidence of cancer in the patient’s urine, according to the American Cancer Society. Doctors may use various radiological tests, like x-rays, CT scans, PET scans, MRI scans, and bone scans. Finally, they may perform biopsies of the kidney, although the ACS notes out that these are often not necessary in kidney cancer diagnoses because doctors can get adequate information from other tests.
How Do Doctors Fail to Diagnose Kidney Cancer?
Because the early symptoms of kidney cancer—when there are early symptoms—are shared with many other conditions, doctors who diagnose a kidney cancer patient with another condition can cause delays in treatment, which can in turn result in a less favorable prognosis. Misdiagnosis and delayed diagnosis happen in numerous ways. A doctor who fails to take the patient’s full medical and family histories might not be aware of factors that put the patient at heightened risk of developing kidney cancer. They might dismiss a patient’s concerns about relatively common symptoms like back pain or fatigue; or they might order a test whose results end up misinterpreted by a lab technician or specialist. In some cases, a specialist might fail to communicate the results of a test back to the patient’s doctor, or the doctor might fail to communicate them back to the patient.
Not all misdiagnoses or delayed diagnoses are medical malpractice, a standard that generally requires the victim to prove they had a doctor-patient relationship; that their doctor failed to uphold a duty of care to the patient; that a competent, skilled doctor operating under similar conditions would not have failed in the same way; that the failure to uphold the duty of care resulted in harm to the patient; and that the harm caused the patient to suffer damages. Victims who can demonstrate these elements may be entitled to recover various compensatory damages.
Kidney cancer misdiagnosis cases are often deeply complex, requiring the expertise of both seasoned legal counsel and medical witnesses. The medical malpractice attorneys at the Law Offices of Thomas L. Gallivan have decades of proven experience obtaining justice for the victims of negligent medical practitioners. As our team aggressively pursues your claim, we will also ensure you receive the peace of mind you deserve as your case progresses. Please reach out to our lawyers today to schedule a free consultation.