Kidney cancer diagnosis

If you have symptoms that suggest kidney cancer, your doctor will work to find out the cause of the problems.

You may have a physical exam. Also, you may have one or more of the following tests:

  • Urine tests: To check your urine for blood and other signs of disease.
  • Blood tests: To check your blood for several substances, such as creatinine. A high level of creatinine may mean the kidneys aren’t doing their job.
  • Ultrasound: To create a picture of your kidney and nearby tissue. An ultrasound device uses sound waves that undetected by humans. The sound waves make a pattern of echoes as they bounce off organs inside your abdomen. The echoes create a picture of your kidney and nearby tissues. The picture can show a kidney tumor.
  • CT scan: To take a series of detailed pictures of your abdomen with an X-ray machine linked to a computer. You may receive an injection of contrast material so your urinary tract and lymph nodes show up clearly in the pictures. The CT scan can show cancer in the kidneys, lymph nodes or elsewhere in the abdomen.
  • MRI: To make detailed pictures of your urinary tract and lymph nodes using a large machine with a strong magnet linked to a computer. You may receive an injection of contrast material. MRI can show cancer in your kidneys, lymph nodes or other tissue in the abdomen.
  • IVP: To make an X-ray using an injection of dye into a vein in your arm. The dye travels through the body and collects in your kidneys, which makes them appear on X-rays. A series of X-rays then tracks the dye as it moves through your kidneys to your ureters and bladder. The X-rays can show a kidney tumor or other problems. (IVP is not used as commonly as CT or MRI for the detection of kidney cancer.)
  • Biopsy: To remove tissue to look for cancer cells. Your doctor inserts a thin needle through your skin into the kidney to remove a small sample of tissue. Your doctor may use ultrasound or a CT scan to guide the needle. A pathologist uses a microscope to check for cancer cells in the tissue.
  • Surgery: To remove part or all of a kidney tumor. A pathologist can make a final diagnosis by checking the tissue under a microscope for cancer cells.