Kidney Cancer

Kidney Cancer Symptoms

Frequently early kidney cancers and renal cell carcinomas do not cause any signs or symptoms. The following are the most common symptoms of renal cell cancer. However, each individual may experience symptoms differently.

Kidney Cancer2

Symptoms may include:

  • Blood in the urine
  • Rapid, unexplained weight loss
  • Low back pain (not caused by an injury)
  • Loss of appetite
  • Swelling of ankles and legs
  • Mass or lump in the belly
  • Fatigue
  • Recurrent fever (not caused by a cold or the flu)
  • High blood pressure (less frequently)
  • Anemia (less frequently)
  • Unrelieved pain in the side

The symptoms of renal cell cancer may resemble other medical conditions or problems. Always consult your doctor for a diagnosis.

CT scan

Bone scan

Bone Scan

A bone scan is a specialized radiology procedure used to examine the various bones of the skeleton to identify areas of physical and chemical changes in bone. Bone scans are used primarily to detect the spread of metastatic cancer.

For this test, a nurse or technician injects you with radioactive dye and then takes scans of your bones. The picture shows areas of cells where the radiation is concentrated, which can mean that there is an abnormality. It does not necessarily mean there is a tumor. Other things, such as arthritis or bone fractures, can also make a bone scan abnormal. Your doctor may also use this test to find out if a bone tumor has spread to other bones or if a soft tissue tumor has spread to bone.

Chest X-ray

What Is a Chest X-Ray?

A chest X-ray is a type of diagnostic radiology procedure used to examine the chest and the organs and structures located in the chest. Chest X-rays may be used to assess the lungs, as well as the heart (either directly or indirectly) by looking at the heart itself. Certain conditions of the heart may cause changes in the lungs and/or the vessels of the lungs.

Chest X-rays are used to assess the lungs and heart including enlargement, masses, spots, or to help show whether cancer has spread into the lungs. A chest X-ray can see changes in the normal structure of the heart, lungs, and/or lung vessels like extra blood flow, which may indicate disease or other conditions.

Chest X-rays use invisible X-ray beams to produce images that provide important information regarding the size, shape, contour, and anatomic location of the heart, lungs, bronchi, great vessels (aorta, aortic arch, pulmonary arteries), mediastinum (an area in the middle of the chest separating the lungs), and the bones (cervical and dorsal spine, clavicles, shoulder girdle, and ribs).

Depending on the results of the chest X-ray, additional tests or procedures may be requested by your physician for further diagnostic information.

Other related procedures that may be used to diagnose problems of the chest and respiratory tract include:

  • Chest fluoroscopy
  • Chest ultrasound
  • Computed tomography (CT scan) of the chest
  • Lung biopsy
  • Lung scans
  • Mediastinoscopy
  • Positron emission tomography (PET scan) of the chest
  • Pleural biopsy
  • Thoracentesis
  • Sinus X-rays
  • Pulmonary angiogram
  • Bronchoscopy
  • Bronchography

Intravenous pyelogram

Intraveneous Pyelogram (IVP)

Intraveneous pyelogram (IVP) is a series of X-rays of the kidney, ureters, and bladder with the injection of a contrast dye into the vein. The images are used to detect tumors, abnormalities, kidney stones, or any obstructions, and to assess renal blood flow. It may also be used to evaluate other diseases or check for spread of bladder cancer to other areas of the urinary tract.

PET scan

What Is Positron Emission Tomography (PET) Scan?

Positron emission tomography, also called PET imaging or a PET scan, is a type of nuclear medicine imaging. A PET scan measures important body functions, such as blood flow, oxygen use, and sugar (glucose) metabolism, to help doctors evaluate how well organs and tissues are functioning.

PET is a powerful diagnostic test that is having a major impact on the diagnosis and treatment of disease. A PET scan (positron emission tomography scan) monitors the biochemical functioning of cells by detecting how they process certain compounds, such as glucose (sugar). PET can detect extremely small cancerous tumors, subtle changes of the brain and heart, and give doctors important early information about heart disease and many neurological disorders, like Alzheimer’s.

Most common medical tests, like CT and MRI scans, only show details about the structure of your body. PET scans give doctors images of function throughout the entire body, uncovering abnormalities that might otherwise go undetected. This allows doctors to treat these diseases earlier and more accurately. A PET scan puts time on your side. The earlier the diagnosis, the better the chance for treatment.

For example, a PET scan is the most accurate, non-invasive way to tell whether or not a tumor is benign or malignant, sparing patients expensive, often painful diagnostic surgeries and suggesting treatment options earlier in the course of the disease. Although cancer spreads silently in the body, PET can inspect all organs of the body for cancer in a single examination.

Today, most PET scans are performed on instruments that are combined PET and CT scanners. The combined PET/CT scans provide images that pinpoint the location of abnormal metabolic activity within the body. The combined scans have been shown to provide more accurate diagnoses than the two scans performed separately.

About nuclear medicine

Nuclear medicine is a branch of medical imaging that uses small amounts of radioactive material to diagnose or treat a variety of diseases, including many types of cancers, heart disease, and certain other abnormalities within the body. Depending on the type of nuclear medicine exam you are undergoing, the radiotracer is either injected into a vein, swallowed or inhaled as a gas and eventually accumulates in the organ or area of your body being examined, where it gives off energy in the form of gamma rays. This energy is detected by a device called a gamma camera, a PET scanner and/or probe.


Renal angiography

Renal Angiogram

Renal angiography (also called arteriography) – a series of X-rays of the renal blood vessels with the injection of a contrast dye into a catheter, which is placed into the blood vessels of the kidney, to detect any signs of blockage or abnormalities affecting the blood supply to the kidneys.


Based of results of other tests and procedures, a biopsy may be needed. A biopsy is a procedure in which a sample of the tumor is removed and sent to the laboratory for examination by a pathologist.

Kidney Cancer Staging

The stage of your cancer is the terminology doctors use to communicate the size of a tumor and where and how deeply it has spread. When you are diagnosed with kidney cancer, the doctor needs to know the type of kidney cancer you have and the stage the cancer is in.

The following system is used to stage your kidney cancer:

  • TX: Primary tumor cannot be assessed
  • T0: No evidence of primary tumor
  • T1: Tumor ²7 cm in greatest dimension, limited to the kidney
  • T1a: Tumor ²4 cm in greatest dimension, limited to the kidney
  • T1b: Tumor >4 cm but not >7 cm in greatest dimension, limited to the kidney
  • T2: Tumor >7 cm in greatest dimension, limited to the kidney
  • T2a: Tumor >7 cm but ²10 cm in greatest dimension, limited to the kidney.
  • T2b: Tumor >10 cm, limited to the kidney
  • T3: Tumor extends into major veins or perinephric tissues, but not into the ipsilateral adrenal gland and not beyond the connective tissue covering of the kidney, known as Gerota fascia
  • T3a: Tumor grossly extends into the renal vein or its segmental (muscle-containing) branches, or tumor invades perirenal and/or renal sinus fat but not beyond Gerota fascia
  • T3b: Tumor grossly extends into the vena cava below the diaphragm
  • T3c: Tumor grossly extends into the vena cava above the diaphragm or invades the wall of the vena cava
  • T4: Tumor invades beyond Gerota fascia (including contiguous extension into the ipsilateral adrenal gland)