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About kidney cysts

Kidney cysts are non-malignant growths that form in the kidneys. They can be simple or complex. Simple kidney cysts are much more common and they rarely cause complications. Complex cysts, on the other hand, have certain characteristics that increase the chance of kidney cancer.

In most cases, simple kidney cysts are round and filled with liquid. The fluid is clear and usually yellowish, and the lining of the cyst is smooth, with no regularities. Simple cysts are harmless and fairly common, especially among persons over the age of 50.

Another common type of simple kidney cysts are hyperdense cysts, which contain blood in the lining of the cyst. Just like the regular simple kidney cyst, a hyperdense cyst does not increase the risk of kidney cancer.

Complex kidney cysts are different and they are considered to be more serious. They are characterized by irregular outer shape and by certain irregularities inside the cysts. For example, they can have septations or walls within the cysts, which can be thin or quite thick and coarse.

Another type of complex kidney cysts are the calcified ones. Calcification means that there are calcium deposits inside the cyst. These deposits can be very subtle or quite big and well-defined.

When it comes to risk of cancer associated with complex cysts with calcification, it is important to realize that there is a chance of malignancy. The risk varies from person to person- in some it is very low while in others it is considerable. This is why it is very important to monitor the cysts and to have regular check-ups by a urologist or a radiologist.

Treatment for kidney cysts

In majority of cases, simple kidney cysts do not cause any symptoms and are only discovered on X-ray exams performed for other reasons, for example for kidney stones. In such cases, no specific treatment is necessary but the patient is advised to have regular check-ups in case the cyst changes or grows bigger.

Sometimes cysts do cause some symptoms, usually discomfort, tenderness or pain in the flank. If the symptoms are interfering with the normal activities of the patient, they can be removed through aspiration and sclerosis. Aspiration means that the doctor inserts the needle through the skin into the cyst, guided by ultrasound or CT scan, and drains the fluid from the cyst. Sclerosis is then performed by injecting a substance that reduces the empty cyst to a scar.

In some cases laparoscopic decortication of the cyst may be required. This surgical procedure is usually done when aspiration or sclerosis fail to eliminate the cyst or if the cyst keeps growing back.

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