Kidney stones and kidney cancer can cause similar symptoms, and there may be a link between the two. These health conditions also have differences in treatment, risk factors, and outlook.
Kidney stones and kidney cancer are two health conditions that affect your kidneys. Your kidneys serve the vital function of filtering wastes from your blood so that they can be removed from your body as urine.
While kidney stones and kidney cancer do share some similarities and a possible link, there are also many key differences between the two.
Kidney stones are hard deposits that can form in one or both of your kidneys. Most kidney stones, about
Kidney stones vary in size and shape, typically ranging from the size of a grain of sand to the size of a pebble. In rare cases, they may be the size of a golf ball!
Cancer happens when cells in the body start to grow and divide uncontrollably, invading surrounding tissues and potentially spreading to other parts of the body.
Genetic changes cause cancer. These can be inherited from your parents or can occur over your lifetime, either naturally or due to certain environmental factors.
Some studies have found a link between kidney stones and kidney cancer. However, a
An older 2014 review found that a history of kidney stones was associated with an increased risk of kidney cancer, but only in males. A
The way kidney stones may increase kidney cancer risk is still unknown. It’s possible that increased inflammation or infections due to kidney stones may drive potentially cancerous changes in the kidney.
In fact, many kidney cancers are detected incidentally when a person is being tested or treated for another health condition.
When symptoms of kidney cancer are present,
Kidney stones and kidney cancer share great differences in many other areas as well.
Kidney stones typically don’t have symptoms while they’re still in the kidney. Often, symptoms appear when kidney stones enter the ureters, which are the tubes that carry urine from your kidneys to your bladder.
The symptoms of kidney stones can include:
- severe, sharp pain in your side or lower back that may radiate into your abdomen or groin
- nausea and vomiting
- blood in your urine
- frequent urination
- painful urination
- cloudy or foul-smelling urine
- fever and chills if an infection is also present
Many people with early-stage kidney cancers don’t have symptoms. When symptoms are present, they may include:
A smaller kidney stone may be able to pass through your urinary tract without treatment. During this time, you can use pain medication and oral or intravenous hydration to ease pain and discomfort. It also helps to drink a lot of water to help move the stone along.
The oral medication tamsulosin may be prescribed to help stones pass.
Some kidney stones may need to be broken up using lithotripsy or removed using ureteroscopy or percutaneous nephrolithotomy. This may be necessary if they’re larger or are blocking the flow of urine, or if an infection is present.
The treatment of kidney cancer depends on many factors. These include, but aren’t limited to, the type and stage of your cancer as well as your age and overall health.
Other treatments that may be used, often in combination with other treatments, include:
The risk factors for kidney stones are:
- a personal or family history of kidney stones
- low intake of fluids
- a diet high in salt, sugar, or protein
- certain health conditions, such as:
- high blood pressure
- frequent or recurrent urinary tract infections
- metabolic disorders that lead to high levels of calcium, oxalate, uric acid, or cystine in the urine
- a history of gastrointestinal tract (GI) surgery
- certain medications, such as:
- calcium-based antacids
- some types of seizure medications
The risk factors for kidney cancer include:
Most people with kidney stones are able to recover completely. Complications are
If you’ve had one kidney stone, you’re at risk of having another. Roughly
Your outlook for kidney cancer depends on many factors, such as:
- the type of cancer you have
- the stage and grade of your cancer
- how the cancer responds to treatment
- your age and overall health
The overall 5-year survival rate for kidney cancer is
Can kidney stones be prevented?
Yes. A few basic steps for preventing kidney stones include:
- drinking plenty of fluids
- reducing the amount of salt in your diet
- limiting animal protein in your diet and considering replacing it with plant-based proteins
- managing your weight, if necessary
How common is kidney cancer?
Kidney cancer is one of the top 10 most common types of cancer in adults. The
Can kidney cancer be prevented?
Not all kidney cancers can be prevented, but you can reduce your risk by:
- not smoking or quitting if you do
- managing any underlying health conditions such as high blood pressure or obesity
- avoiding workplace exposure to potentially harmful chemicals
Kidney stones and kidney cancer both affect the kidneys. Both share some risk factors and specific symptoms like pain and blood in your urine. There may also be a link between kidney stones and the development of kidney cancer.
If you’re experiencing blood in your urine or pain in your side or lower back, see a doctor to find out what may be causing it.