Ronnie Hillman, former Denver Broncos running back died after prolonged suffering due to liver cancer, in hospice. He was 31 at the time. 

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Hillman’s family revealed that the Late footballer was in hospice for quite some time after being diagnosed with Renal Medullary Carcinoma, a type of cancer that predominantly affects young people with the sickle cell trait. 

What is Renal Medullary Carcinoma?

Renal Medullary Carcinoma (RMC) is a rare type of Kidney Cancer predominantly affecting people with sickle cell trait. The population that is most affected by RMC is under 30 years old, and it is twice as likely to occur in men than women. 

RMC is categorized by macroscopically visible (gross) hematuria (presence of red blood cells in the urine), abdominal or back pain, and significant weight loss. Several researchers have also found the presence of renal mass (a tumor-like growth in the kidney) or enlarged lymph nodes. 

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The definite cause of RMC is still not completely understood, but most individuals diagnosed with this have had a sickle cell trait. The person carries one normal copy of the hemoglobin A gene and one copy of the hemoglobin A gene which carries the genetic mutation found in sickle cell disease. Other genetic and environmental factors that increase the chance of RMC are unknown as of yet. 

Renal Medullary Carcinoma is termed the seventh sickle cell nephropathy due to being diagnosed almost exclusively in individuals with sickle cell trait and occasionally in those who have sickle cell disease. 

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Since RMC is extremely rare, it is not possible to predict which individual with a sickle cell trait will develop this cancer. 

RMC is particularly aggressive. The symptoms do not appear in the early stages. It presents itself at the later stages, when the cancer cell has already metastasized, and is resistant to Chemotherapy, thus making the management highly challenging. Available treatments include surgical resection (removal of as much of cancerous cells from the body) and Chemotherapy with a variety of agents.