What is Kidney Cancer?
Kidney cancer, also called renal cancer, is a disease in which kidney cells become malignant (i.e. cancerous) and grow out of control, forming a tumor. This disease rarely causes signs or symptoms to emerge in its early stages and there are currently no routine tests to screen for it in the absence of symptoms. However, symptoms that occur in the later stages include:
- Blood in urine
- Pain in back or side that doesn’t go away
- Loss of appetite
- Fever (intermittent)
In order to diagnose kidney cancer, doctors perform tests and procedures including blood and urine tests, imaging tests, and tissue biopsies. After a diagnosis is established, doctors will then assign a number, called a stage, to describe the extent and severity of the condition. The stages range from I-IV, with IV being the worst. Treatment options may include surgery, targeted therapy, radiation therapy, and clinical trials.
How Does VA Rate Kidney Cancer?
VA can rate kidney cancer in a number of ways based on the status of the disease and any accompanying or residual conditions that may be present. If a tumor is benign, it is evaluated under DC 7529, benign neoplasms of the genitourinary system, and rated based on how it affects the surrounding genitourinary system. If the tumor is malignant, or active, it is evaluated under Diagnostic Code (DC) 7528, malignant neoplasms of the genitourinary system, and given a 100 percent disability rating. This 100 percent disability rating will continue for the first six months after the last treatment, at which point it is re-evaluated. If the cancer is no longer active, it is then rated based on any residual symptoms, such as renal dysfunction.
Ratings of the genitourinary system based on dysfunctions are found under 38 CFR § 4.115a. Renal dysfunction, which is most commonly associated with kidney cancer, is rated as follows:
- “100% – requiring regular dialysis, or precluding more than sedentary activity from one of the following: persistent edema and albuminuria; or, BUN more than 80mg%; or, creatinine more than 8mg%; or, markedly decreased function of kidney or other organ systems; especially cardiovascular
- 80% – persistent edema and albuminuria with BUN 40 to 80mg%; or, creatinine 4 to 8mg%; or, generalized poor health characterized by lethargy, weakness, anorexia, weight loss, or limitation of exertion
- 60% – constant albuminuria with some edema; or, definite decrease in kidney function; or, hypertension at least 40% disabling under DC 7101
- 30% – albumin constant or recurring with hyaline and granular casts or red blood cells; or, transient or slight edema or hypertension at least 10% disabling under DC 7101
- 0% – albumin and casts with acute nephritis; or, hypertension non-compensable under DC 7101
Camp Lejeune Water Contamination and Kidney Cancer
From 1953 to 1987, everyone living or working at Camp Lejeune was exposed to a variety of toxins in the water and later, many became sick with a host of health problems. Veterans with at least 30 days of service (consecutive or nonconsecutive) at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina within that time period may be eligible for service connection on a presumptive basis for certain conditions associated with the water contamination, including kidney cancer. In order to receive presumptive service connection for kidney cancer, Camp Lejeune veterans must show that they served during the specified time period and have a current diagnosis.
Agent Orange Exposure and Kidney Cancer
The Institute of Medicine (IOM) has studied the relationship between Agent Orange and a long list of cancers. Based on its research, it grouped the list into three categories based on the strength of relationship between exposure and the diseases: sufficient evidence of an association, limited/suggestive evidence of an association, and inadequate/insufficient evidence. The IOM determined kidney cancer falls into the inadequate/insufficient category. As a result, VA does not include it as a presumptive condition related to Agent Orange exposure. However, veterans can still apply for service connection on a direct basis. In this case, they would need to establish a nexus that links their kidney cancer to the exposure, or some other event, they experienced during service.
Other VA Benefits for Kidney Cancer
VA provides a variety of other benefits related to kidney cancer and disease regardless of veterans’ service-connected or non-service-connected status.
VA offers healthcare services to veterans with chronic kidney disease regardless of whether they are service connected for the condition. Specifically, dialysis care is a covered benefit under VA’s Medical Benefits Package for veterans enrolled in VA healthcare. A list of all Veterans Health Administration dialysis facilities can be found on VA’s website.
Home-care dialysis performed by patient or designated caregiver at his or her home is an alternative to in-center dialysis if the veteran chooses VA as his or her provider. If veterans are medically acceptable candidates, VA will provide them with the necessary training, medical equipment and supplies, and home support required to perform home dialysis. In this case, there are two types of home dialysis: hemodialysis and peritoneal dialysis. VA must make both types available to veterans, or offer it through non-VA healthcare if the veteran’s VA facility is unable to provide that service.
Kidney transplants are also available for veterans who are eligible. A list of locations that provide kidney transplant services can be found on VA’s website as well.
Call Chisholm Chisholm & Kilpatrick LTD for a Free Case Evaluation: 800-544-9144
If you are currently suffering from kidney cancer and are interested in pursuing VA disability benefits, Chisholm Chisholm & Kilpatrick LTD may be able to help. Our firm is highly experienced in handling a variety of claims and appeals. Call our office for a free case evaluation today: 800-544-9144.