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Diagnosing Kidney Cancer

To make the most accurate diagnosis, your urologist will perform a complete physical examination, talk to you about your medical history and ask questions about your lifestyle and symptoms including:

  • Do you smoke?
  • What symptoms are you experiencing?
  • When did you first notice these symptoms?
  • Do your symptoms come and go or are they constant?
  • How severe are your symptoms?
  • Do you have a family history of kidney cancer?

Your Doctor May Also Order Additional Imaging And Lab Tests, Including:

  • CT Scan, MRI or ultrasound
  • Urinalysis
  • Blood tests
  • X-ray or bone scan – if cancer is diagnosed, these tests determine if cancer has spread to the lungs or bones
  • In rarer circumstances, a needle biopsy if a kidney mass is found

Staging Kidney Cancer

Upon diagnosis, your doctor will assign your kidney cancer to one of four stages that describe how advanced and how aggressive the cancer is. Earlier stages have a better prognosis with treatment. Staging is based on the size of the kidney mass, its location and whether or not the cancer has invaded surrounding tissues or structures. Staging the cancer will also help your doctor determine the best approach to your treatment.

Stage 1 – The tumor is less than or equal to 7 centimeters and is confined to the kidney.

Stage 2 – The tumor is larger than 7 centimeters but still confined to the kidney.

Stage 3 – The tumor has invaded the vascular structures (renal vein or inferior vena cava) or into the lymph nodes.

Stage 4 – The tumor has spread more extensively (liver, lungs, bone and/or brain).