According to the American Society of Clinical Oncology, roughly 75,000 Americans are diagnosed with kidney cancer each year. Further, the National Kidney Foundation notes that chronic kidney disease (CKD) – the gradual loss of kidney function — affects roughly 15 percent of the U.S. adult population.
Although kidney cancer and CKD are separate, the two are still linked. “Cancer can cause CKD either directly or indirectly through the adverse effects of therapies, [and] CKD may conversely be a risk factor for cancer,” explains the National Institutes of Health.
In recognition of National Kidney Month in March, Fifth Season Financial is focusing on the symptoms, causes and prevention of kidney cancer and end-stage renal disease (the last stage of CKD). We will explore topics like renal failure treatment, answer questions like “how long can you live with end-stage kidney failure?” and outline financial support options for patients.
Symptoms of end-stage renal disease and kidney cancer
End-stage renal disease (ESRD) “means that the kidney functionality is below 10 percent of the standard operation rates,” writes the nonprofit NephCure Kidney International.
Stage 4 kidney failure symptoms are varied. As CKD progresses to ESRD, they may range from nausea, vomiting, loss of appetite and trouble sleeping to high blood pressure, swelling of the feet and chest pain, shares the Mayo Clinic.
The organization also points out that “kidneys are highly adaptable and able to compensate for lost function.” Irreversible damage often occurs before symptoms become apparent. In addition, “signs and symptoms of kidney disease are often nonspecific, meaning they can also be caused by other illnesses.” Symptoms are more likely to increase as the disease advances.
Like CKD, early kidney cancers don’t always have noticeable signs. In later stages, however, the American Cancer Society lists possible symptoms as blood in the urine, lower back pain on one side (not caused by injury), a lump on the side or lower back, fatigue, loss of appetite, weight loss, a fever that doesn’t go away and anemia.
What causes end-stage renal disease? Am I at risk?
Kidney disease is actually caused by a number of factors, including type 1 and type 2 diabetes, reports the Mayo Clinic. High blood pressure is another cause, along with “prolonged obstruction of the urinary tract from conditions such as enlarged prostate, kidney stones and some cancers.” Other conditions that can lead to ESRD are interstitial nephritis — an inflammation of the kidney’s tubules — and vesicoureteral reflux, which causes a person’s urine to back up in their kidneys.
There are also risk factors to keep in mind. “You are more likely to get kidney disease if someone else in your family has it,” says the American Kidney Fund. Adults over the age of 60 are at a higher risk, as well, as are African Americans, Hispanics, Native Americans, and Asian Americans.
The Mayo Clinic observes that, although “it’s not clear what causes renal cell cancer, the most common form of kidney cancer, there are several risk factors.” These include older age, smoking, obesity, high blood pressure, treatment for kidney failure, certain inherited syndromes, a family history of kidney cancer and exposure to certain substances in the workplace (for example, exposure to cadmium or specific herbicides).
How to prevent kidney failure
Chronic kidney disease treatment can help manage the ESRD, but not cure it. “Damage to your kidneys is usually permanent,” explains the American Kidney Fund. Steps can be taken, however, to keep the kidneys as healthy as possible for as long as possible.
Maintaining a healthy blood pressure is important – as is committing to a diet that limits salt and fat. Avoid tobacco and alcohol. Exercising at least 30 minutes on most days can also help.
If patients do experience complete kidney failure, they will either need dialysis or a transplant.
Life expectancy for end-stage renal disease and kidney cancer
End-stage renal disease life expectancy often depends on the patient’s age. “If diagnosed at the age of 30, you have a possibility of living 10 to 20 years,” advises NephCure Kidney International. “Individuals aged 60 years to 85 years have a life expectancy of six years and one-and-a-half or one year, respectively.”
The American Cancer Society found that, based on people diagnosed with cancers of the kidney (or renal pelvis) between 2009 and 2015, the average five-year relative survival rate was 75 percent. The organization also recognizes that “people now being diagnosed with kidney cancer may have a better outlook than these numbers show. Treatments improve over time, and these numbers are based on people who were diagnosed and treated at least five years earlier.”
Financial assistance for treatments
One component of both ESRD and kidney cancer that often goes overlooked is the financial cost of treatment. “For patients not covered by health insurance, kidney cancer treatment typically costs $15,000 to $75,000,” revealed CostHelper. Meanwhile, ESRD can cost upward of $75,000 to treat, according to the American Journal of Managed Care.
Fortunately, there is financial assistance for kidney patients. Programs like Fifth Season Financial’s Funds for Living and Giving (FLAG) program allow patients to borrow against their existing life insurance policies. These funds can be put to use covering treatment and other medical bills, providing much-needed relief during a harrowing time. FLAG funds don’t have to be used for medical expenses — there are no restrictions.If you’re a patient with ESRD or kidney cancer facing financial hardship, our FLAG program may be the answer. Call (866) 459-1271 or visit https://www.fifthseasonfinancial.com/funds-for-living-program/ for more information.