March is Kidney Cancer Awareness Month

What is Kidney Cancer?

Kidney cancer is a type of cancer that originates in the kidneys, which are vital organs responsible for filtering waste and excess fluid from the blood to form urine. In Belize, kidney cancer is a significant health concern as it is among the top 10 most common cancers in the country. The exact causes of kidney cancer are not fully understood, but certain risk factors can increase a person’s likelihood of developing the disease.

One of the main risk factors for kidney cancer is smoking, which is a prevalent habit in Belize. Studies have shown that smokers are twice as likely to develop kidney cancer compared to non-smokers. Other risk factors include obesity, high blood pressure, and a family history of the disease. Additionally, exposure to certain chemicals and substances such as asbestos, cadmium, and organic solvents can also increase the risk of developing kidney cancer.

Symptoms of kidney cancer may include blood in the urine, back pain, persistent fatigue, unexplained weight loss, and a lump or mass in the abdomen. However, these symptoms can be vague and easily overlooked, leading to a delayed diagnosis. Therefore, it is important for individuals to be aware of their risk factors and seek medical attention if they experience any concerning symptoms.

Diagnosing kidney cancer typically involves a combination of imaging tests such as CT scans, MRIs, and ultrasounds, as well as blood and urine tests to check for abnormal levels of certain substances. If kidney cancer is suspected, a biopsy may be performed to confirm the diagnosis.

Treating Kidney Cancer in Belize

Treatment options for kidney cancer in Belize vary depending on the stage and severity of the disease. In early stages, surgery may be performed to remove the cancerous tumor and surrounding tissue. In cases where the cancer has spread beyond the kidney, additional treatments such as chemotherapy, radiation therapy, or targeted therapy may be used to help shrink the tumor and slow its growth.

Access to quality healthcare and specialized cancer treatment facilities can be a challenge in Belize, particularly for those living in rural or remote areas. Additionally, the cost of cancer treatment can be prohibitively expensive for many Belizeans, leading to delays in diagnosis and treatment. As a result, some individuals may seek medical care in neighboring countries such as Mexico or the United States, where more advanced treatment options are available.

Raul’s Survival Story

The amazing man pictured here is Raul. He was alarmed by blood in his urine and testing revealed a kidney mass that turned out to be cancer. This type of cancer is often inoperable and fatal in resource-poor settings. Dr. Timothy Bradford, traveling with Global Surgical Expedition, was able to remove part of his kidney. By not removing the entire kidney, he was able to preserve kidney function for future years.  Raul is cancer-free and grateful he is able to continue to enjoy his 10 grandchildren thanks to his life saving kidney surgery.

Raising Awareness

In addition to offering surgical treatment, Global Surgical Expedition seeks to increase awareness about kidney cancer and its risk factors, as well as to improve access to early detection and treatment services, are essential in reducing the burden of this disease in Belize. Public health campaigns, screenings, and educational programs can help individuals better understand their risk factors and encourage them to seek medical attention if they experience symptoms suggestive of kidney cancer.

In conclusion, kidney cancer is a prevalent and serious health issue in Belize, with various risk factors contributing to its development. Early detection and access to quality healthcare services are crucial in improving outcomes for individuals diagnosed with kidney cancer. By raising awareness, improving access to care, and providing support for those affected by the disease, Belize can work towards reducing the impact of kidney cancer on its population.