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March 11, 2019

Kidney Cancer Awareness: What You Might Not Know About Your Body’s Blood Filter

By: Karl Braun

A bathtub and a bucket’s worth. That’s how many gallons of fluid your kidneys filter and purify in a day (about 50 gallons). And you thought you worked hard.

March is Kidney Cancer Awareness Month, so test yourself: Do you know what this dynamic-duo of vital organs can accomplish in their healthiest state?


Your kidneys are like a personal Brita® purification system, but with life-sustaining powers. Every day they help filter salt, water and waste – including toxic substances – from blood that is transported into the kidneys. These filtered substances become urine, while the clean blood flows back to the heart.


In all, the kidneys filter about 50 gallons – 200 quarts – of fluid daily. Of that, 198 quarts are recovered and recirculated; two quarts are peed away.


But here are a few functions of the kidneys you might not know:

  • They release hormones that regulate blood pressure and produce red blood cells.
  • They create a form of vitamin D that supports healthy bones.
  • They maintain an overall balance of your body’s fluids.
  • They regulate and filter minerals, such as calcium, and metabolize nutrients in the blood.

Kidney Cancer Will Affect 74,000 People in 2019

Cancerous tumors will impede the kidney’s ability to perform these tasks, which can result in increased or decreased red blood cell counts or an imbalance of certain substances in the blood stream. This is because in most cases, cancer tumors in the kidneys develop in its waste-removing filters. This is called renal cell cancer, and it accounts for about 90% of all kidney cancers.

Some kidney cancer facts:

  • It is among the 10 most common cancers, expected to develop in 74,000 people in 2019, the American Cancer Society estimates.
  • Men account for 60% of all cases – one in 48 have a lifetime risk of developing the disease, while one in 83 women do.
  • The average age of those diagnosed is 64. Kidney cancer is uncommon among those younger than 45.
  • If diagnosed early, patients with kidney cancer have a 93% five-year survival rate.

Know Your Kidneys: Avoid Smoke, Chemicals

Place your hands at the back of your rib cage, above your waist. This is where your kidneys live. Get to know this place. If you experience pain in the lower side of the back, blood in your urine, unexplained weight loss or a lump in your abdomen, call your physician. High risk factors for kidney cancer include tobacco smoke, obesity and certain chemicals.


Lastly, just to be sure you understand how important kidneys are for purifying your blood: Every day, they filter enough fluids to equal about 400 blood donations. So, during Kidney Cancer Awareness Month, pat your rib cage knowingly next time you get near chemicals, smoke or unhealthy foods. Your kidneys will take care of you, especially if you take care of them.


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