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Treatment Side Effects - Kidney Damage

Reviewed by: HU Medical Review Board | Last reviewed: January 2017.

Kidney damage is a possible complication that may be experienced by patients receiving treatment for lung cancer. The kidneys are the organs responsible for maintaining the proper balance of water and electrolytes in the body. They also filter wastes from the blood, which are removed from the body as urine. When the kidneys are damaged, these vital functions are compromised.

What kidney problems may occur?

There are several kidney problems that may occur with kidney damage:1

  • Nephrotoxicity, or renal toxicity, is one of the most common kidney problems that occurs when the kidneys are unable to filter all the waste products from the body. Blood electrolytes, such as potassium and magnesium, may become elevated;
  • Azotemia is an excess of nitrogen compounds in the blood that can lead to sudden renal failure if untreated;
  • Proteinuria is an excess of protein in the urine;
  • Urinary tract infection (UTI) is an infection in part of the urinary system, including the bladder. If untreated, UTIs can spread to the kidneys or bloodstream, which are more serious infections.

Can chemotherapy cause kidney damage?

There are several chemotherapy drugs that have been reported to cause kidney damage in some patients. Not all patients who receive chemotherapy have kidney problems, and potential side effects are specific to the drugs given.1

Signs of kidney damage

Patients with kidney damage may experience:1,2

  • Burning with urination or sudden urge to urinate
  • Urine that is cloudy, bloody, or dark
  • Urine that has a strong smell
  • Not urinating often
  • Trouble completely emptying bladder
  • Pain in the back, pelvis or abdomen
  • Fever or chills
  • Fatigue
  • Swelling in feet or ankles
  • Nausea, vomiting, or a loss of appetite

As with any side effects, patients who experience any of these symptoms should report them to their doctor or nurse.

Managing kidney damage

Kidney damage can often be reversed with proper management. Patients receiving chemotherapy are given regular blood tests to monitor their kidney function. In addition, patients may be asked to give urine samples for testing.1

With some kidney problems, patients may receive medications to treat the conditions, such as antibiotics to treat UTI. Chemotherapy regimens may be stopped, delayed or changed. In addition, there are strategies patients can use to prevent kidney damage from chemotherapy, including:1,2

  • Drinking 2-3 quarts of fluids daily
  • Managing side effects like nausea, vomiting or diarrhea that can lead to dehydration
  • Preventing UTIs with strategies discussed with your healthcare team, including proper hygiene, regularly going to the bathroom, and wearing cotton underwear and loose fitting pants

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