There are no routine screening guidelines to test for kidney cancer. However, urine tests as part of a routine medical checkup may detect kidney cancer in people at average risk. For those with an increased risk of kidney cancer, a doctor may recommend regular imaging scans and genetic testing.
They can also find it as a result of lab and imaging tests a person has undergone for a different reason.
This article discusses the symptoms of kidney cancer, the routine screening guidelines and tests doctors use to detect the disease, and more.
Testing for kidney cancer when a person does not have symptoms is known as screening. The
This is because there is no evidence to show that screening tests lower a person’s risk of dying as a result of kidney cancer.
However, those with a higher risk of developing kidney cancer may need to undergo regular
Some kidney cancers only receive a diagnosis as a result of a person visiting a doctor when they experience signs and symptoms of kidney cancer. Others receive a diagnosis after a person undergoes an exam for another reason.
There are tests that can detect kidney cancer early. However, none of these carry a recommendation to screen for the disease in people at average risk.
A doctor may detect or suspect symptoms of kidney cancer when performing urinalysis and imaging tests as part of a routine medical checkup.
Urinalysis is a routine urine test that a person may get as a part of a medical checkup. A doctor may find small amounts of blood in the urine, which can be a sign of kidney cancer. However, it is important to note that blood in the urine is a symptom of many other conditions, such as urinary tract or bladder infections and kidney stones.
Imaging tests — an ultrasound, MRI, or CT scan — may help a medical professional discover the presence of tumors or changes in the shape of the kidney that can be due to cancer.
A person may have a high risk of kidney cancer if they have certain inherited conditions, such as:
- von Hippel-Lindau disease
- Birt-Hogg-Dubé syndrome
- hereditary papillary renal cancer
- hereditary leiomyomatosis and renal cell cancer
Doctors often recommend these people have the following
- CT scan: This test takes detailed cross-sectional images of a person’s body. It can also provide information about the size, shape, and location of a tumor and indicates if the cancer has spread beyond the kidney.
- MRI scan: An MRI can indicate if the cancer has grown into major blood vessels in the abdomen. A doctor may also use it to look at abnormal areas in the brain and spinal cord if the cancer has spread.
- Ultrasound scan: Ultrasound machines can help doctors tell the difference between cancerous and noncancerous kidney tumors. The scan may also assist a doctor in guiding a needle during a biopsy.
If a person’s blood relatives have or once had kidney cancer or have an inherited condition with links to the disease, a doctor
If a person experiences symptoms and signs of kidney cancer, they should contact a doctor. A doctor will then take a complete medical history and perform a physical exam.
If a doctor suspects that a person has kidney cancer, they will then order further tests. These include:
- Blood tests, such as a complete blood test: Those with kidney cancer often have abnormal blood test results. The test may show that a person has too many red blood cells, known as polycythemia, or too few red blood cells, or anemia. Anemia is a common symptom of kidney cancer. Less commonly, kidney cancer cells create a hormone that causes the bone marrow to create too many blood cells.
- Urine cytology: This can test for blood in the urine, which is a symptom of kidney cancer in nearly half of people with the condition. This test can also show cancer cells in the urine.
- Imaging tests: These can help doctors see if cancer is present and how far it may have spread. A doctor may order:
- CT scans
- MRI scan
- chest X-ray
- bone scan
- Biopsy: Although imaging tests can be enough for a doctor to diagnose kidney cancer, a biopsy may be necessary if the imaging tests are inconclusive. A doctor can perform a fine needle aspiration or a needle core biopsy.
The early stages of kidney cancer may not cause symptoms or signs. However, symptoms can start as the cancer develops.
- blood in the urine
- pain between the ribs and hips
- persistent lower back pain on one side
- appetite loss
- unexplained weight loss
- a lump or mass in the kidney area
The above symptoms do not only relate to kidney cancer. It is
A person should speak with a doctor if they experience blood in their urine or a lump or mass in the kidney area.
If a person is experiencing persistent symptoms, such as fever with no known cause, they should also seek help from a medical professional.
There are no recommended kidney cancer screening tests for people who do not have certain risk factors. However, urine tests and imaging scans as part of a routine checkup may detect signs of the disease.
For people with a high risk of kidney cancer, doctors can recommend imaging tests to detect for early signs of the disease.
If a person has a family history of kidney cancer, doctors sometimes use CT scans or renal ultrasounds to search for early stage kidney cancer.
A person should speak with a doctor if they suspect they may have kidney cancer or have symptoms or any signs that their kidneys are not functioning properly.