Yep, this is a thing, although it is more of a sideshow when compared to deaths from guns and Covid. However, this cancer illustrates the value of physical exams and early detection.
Globally, kidney cancer accounts for 5% of all cancers in males and 3% in females. In the US, the CDC expects roughly 41,000 new cases of kidney cancer among males and 24,000 among females each year.
The good news is that this is a highly treatable cancer if caught early. The five year survival rates in the US are:
- Localized: When cancer is only in the kidneys, the 5-year survival rate is 93%.
- Regional: When cancer has spread to nearby tissues, the rate is 71%.
- Distant: If cancer has spread throughout the body and is present in other organs, the rate is 14%.(1)
The bad news is that symptoms may not appear until this cancer is relatively advanced.
“Doctors discover more than half of all tumors when they are examining a person for a different reason.Medical News Today(1)
Thus my point about early detection and the importance of regular physical exams.
There are a variety of possible symptoms, some of which are quite easy to ignore or attribute to other causes:
- blood in the urine
- a lump or swelling in the abdomen
- pain in the lower back or side
- a feeling of fullness in the side or flanks
- persistent fever
- appetite loss
- unexplained weight loss
- a feeling that something is blocking the bowels
- general malaise
In terms of actual causes, there’s still a lot we don’t know. Statistically, this disease is more aggressive with males than with females and those who contract it are more likely to be smokers and overweight. There is some evidence for genetic issues that make some people more vulnerable than others.
In any case, as I’ve said before, the point of the Affordable Care Act (aka Obamacare) was to encourage regular physical exams and early detection. The benefits are to enable people to live healthier lives and reduce overall health spending in the US. This cancer provides another example of why that’s important.
I don’t get overtly political in my comments as a rule, but the people who oppose the ACA aren’t interested in helping anyone other than the very rich. The GOP has morphed into the party of greed and death. It’s a sad end to what was once an important and valuable institution. This lack of caring is fundamental to Southerners having shorter life expectancies than the rest of the US. In many parts of the South, the odds are only 50-50 that a person will live until “full retirement age” at 67.
We can see a sectional division even in a state like Florida. While the state average for life expectancy is good, the northern panhandle area is far more like Mississippi and Alabama.
The most recent of these maps is for 2015. Apparently, the Trump administration didn’t want this information readily available to the public. However, we know that life expectancy shrank nationally during the Covid-19 pandemic, so we have every reason to believe that current maps would be worse.