Kidney Cancer Diagnosis

Accurate Diagnosis and Testing to Identify Kidney Cancer Early

Finding kidney cancer early -- before it has a chance to spread to other areas of the body, or metastasize – offers the best chance of beating cancer with powerful and effective kidney cancer treatment options.

Diagnosis of Kidney Cancer

Many people do not experience any noticeable symptoms of kidney cancer at an early stage. Some symptoms that could be signs of kidney cancer include:

  • Abdominal pain
  • Blood in the urine (hematuria)
  • Feeling especially tired
  • Fever that doesn’t go away
  • Low back pain, especially on one side, that wasn’t caused by an injury
  • Mass or lump on your side or lower back
  • Weight loss without a change in diet or exercise habits
  • Loss of appetite

These also could be symptoms of other kidney disorders. If your doctor suspects that you may have kidney cancer, you may need one or more lab tests. Some of the lab tests we use when diagnosing kidney cancer include:

  • Blood chemistry
  • Complete blood count (CBC), which measures the amounts of different cells in the blood
  • Urinalysis (urine testing)

These tests are not conclusive for kidney cancer, but abnormal test results can suggest that something is wrong. We often first locate kidney tumors when we perform imaging studies for other reasons, such as if you’ve had some sort of traumatic injury that requires imaging for diagnosis.

Advanced Imaging Tests

If you were referred to us from a doctor outside Henry Ford Health System, our radiologists and urologists will evaluate your test results. You may need special renal computed tomography (CT) scans or additional tests so we can determine the best course of action.

If we locate a kidney tumor or mass during the course of a CT scan or a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan, we may recommend that you have a needle core biopsy. This test lets us take a sample from the tumor to determine if it’s cancerous. 

We’ll refer you to our kidney cancer program if we diagnose you with kidney cancer. There, our kidney cancer doctors will work to create a customized treatment plan for you.

Metastatic Kidney Cancer Diagnosis

Kidney cancer that has spread beyond the kidneys is known as metastatic kidney cancer. Metastatic kidney cancer usually spreads to the lungs, liver, lymph nodes, brain, or bones. But it can spread anywhere in your body.

We can see where your kidney cancer has spread with one of our sophisticated imaging exams:

Depending on your specific situation, we may need to perform multiple tests to get an accurate picture of where your cancer has spread.


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