Kidney Cancer Basics: Diagnosis


Many of the kidney cancer diagnoses are often made during imaging studies which performed for another health problem.

Apart from that, the process of requesting diagnostic tests that specific to kidney cancer, usually occurs when signs and symptoms related to the tumor come to exist.

Some of the diagnostic tests that physicians ask for when they suspect kidney cancer, are helpful for kidney cancer diagnosis in general manner, while others confirm the diagnosis of kidney cancer specifically.

General Health Tests

General health tests are the first and most fundamental step in the kidney cancer diagnosis. At this stage, the doctor questions your medical and family history, also performs the physical examination.

a. Medical History

Your medical history includes all of the health events in your life and the medicines that you take. Doctor will question any symptoms which you have and your health status at this stage.

b. Family History

It is known that some diseases show familial transition. Therefore, your doctor will want to know what diseases your family members have and what age that they are diagnosed with these diseases.

c. Physical Examination

Your doctor usually evaluates your health status with medical history and physical examination. At this stage, signs such as infection and bleeding may be detected due to any health problems.

Imaging Tests

Imaging tests can simply be defined as taking pictures inside of your body. These tests are often used to confirm the kidney cancer diagnosis. If there is a tumor in the kidney, it can be scanned by imaging investigations.

a. CT scan

CT scan uses x-ray rays to display the inside of your body. Images obtained by x-rays sent from many different angles are combined with a computer. When your doctor suspects of kidney cancer diagnosis, usually asks CT scan of abdomen or belly, which is the most accurate test, to confirm the diagnosis.

b. MRI scan

The MRI device uses the magnetic field and radio waves to display your body. Therefore, no x-ray is sent to your body. Your doctor may be asking an MRI scan which is particularly successful option to show the soft tissues such as kidney, when the CT scan cannot be used because of some health conditions.

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c. Ultrasound

Ultrasound uses the sound waves for imaging of inside your body. If you have any renal tumor in your kidneys, it can be detected during this imaging method.

d. Ureteroscopy

Ureteroscopy involves the insertion of a thin tube-shaped device into your body and the taking the images of the inside of your body. Ureteroscopy is not actually used for the kidney cancer diagnosis. However, if your doctor suspects any Transitional Cell Carcinoma (TCC) or bladder cancer, may ask for this method of investigation.

Blood Tests

Your doctor usually asks blood tests to investigate the signs of a health problem or to assess your overall health. These tests do not confirm the kidney cancer diagnosis, but abnormal results may be indicative of a problem with your kidneys.

a. Complete blood count (CBC)

CBC covers the measurement of all cells and components in your blood. Due to, one of the functions of the kidney is stimulation of Red Blood Cell production, abnormalities in CBC result can be seen in kidney cancer patients.

For more information about functions of the kidney, you can read:
Kidney Cancer Basics: What is the Kidney?


b. Chemistry

Blood chemistry tests are used to measure the amount of chemicals in your blood. As the main function of the kidneys is to filter out harmful waste and chemicals in the blood, the level of chemicals will increase in any disease in the kidneys. For this reason, your doctor may request this test to see if this condition present.

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Urine Tests

Your doctor may ask for urine tests to see if there are any problems. Although the results of urine tests do not confirm the kidney cancer diagnosis, abnormal results indicate that there is a problem in the kidneys.

a. Urinalysis

Urinalysis is examination of your urine with both microscope and chemical tests. If there is an amount of blood in your urine which cannot be seen with naked eye, this test will reveal that. Identifying the blood in urine is an important step for kidney cancer diagnosis.

b. Urine cytology

Urine cytology is the process of examining the urine with microscope to see if there is any cancer cell.

Tissue Tests

Biopsy involves taking samples from your body in order to determine the presence or absence of any pathology.

Biopsy is the only way to confirm the diagnosis of many of the cancers. But the situation for the kidney cancer diagnosis is different. Diagnosis of kidney cancer is mostly can be achieved by imaging studies. Therefore, biopsy is rarely needed in renal tumors.

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