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Kidney Late Effects

Certain cancer treatments can cause kidney problems later in life.

How Kidneys Function

The kidneys are 2 organs located below the rib cage near the middle of the back. They remove waste and extra liquid from blood. That process produces urine.

If kidneys don’t work correctly, fluid and waste products can build up in the blood and cause health problems.

Cancer Treatments That Can Cause Kidney Problems

Therapies that can cause kidney problems include certain chemotherapy medicines, radiation, and surgical procedures.

Chemotherapy

Anti-cancer medicines:

Other medicines:

  • Antibiotics such as tobramycin, gentamicin, and amphotericin
  • Medicines to treat graft-versus-host disease (a complication of hematopoietic cell transplant) such as cyclosporine and FK-506

Radiation

  • Kidney area
  • Abdomen
  • Total body

Surgery

  • Removal of one or both kidneys (nephrectomy)
  • Removal of bladder (cystectomy)

Other risk factors

  • High blood pressure
  • Diabetes
  • History of urinary tract problems such as frequent urinary tract infections and reflux (backward flow of urine)

Health Problems That Can Occur

Problems that may occur include:

  • Swelling, especially of the feet and ankles (edema)
  • Low red blood count (anemia)
  • High blood pressure (hypertension)

People who have signs and symptoms of kidney problems may also have:

  • Fatigue
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Drowsiness

What Survivors Can Do

Know Your Risks and Monitor Health

  • Ask your oncologist about your risk of late effects.
  • Tell your primary health care provider about your risk. Share a copy of your Survivorship Care Plan, which includes a treatment summary.
  • Have a yearly physical examination. It should include a blood pressure check and urine testing.
  • Have blood tests for kidney function (BUN and creatinine) and salt levels at the first long-term follow-up visit.
  • Patients who have had a bladder removal (cystectomy) should see a urologist once a year.

Prevention

Survivors at risk for developing kidney problems should focus on keeping their kidneys healthy:

  • Drink plenty of water.
  • Contact a health care provider immediately if you have symptoms of a urinary tract infection. Symptoms may include burning while urinating, urinating more than usual, and feeling an urgent need to urinate.
  • Use non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) with caution. These medicines include aspirin, ibuprofen, acetaminophen, and naproxen. They can cause kidney damage especially when taken in large doses or when 2 or more of these medications are combined with caffeine or codeine over a long period of time.


Reviewed: June 2018

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