Kidney Cancer – Screening & Diagnosis

We have already discussed that cancer affecting the kidneys is termed as kidney cancer. Early detection is a boon for a cancer patient for it can radically improve chances of survival . Cancer in the kidneys is not easy to diagnose during a routine examination. The course of treatment that a patient may be put on is largely dependent on the symptoms. Before discussing the treatment options for the same, let us look at how kidney cancer can be screened and diagnosed.

Cancer is the growth of malignant cells in the body. When the growth of these malignant cells is in the kidneys it is termed as kidney cancer. The battle against kidney cancer starts with a thorough physical examination and a discussion covering past medical history of the patient. Since this cancer is likely to spread to other body parts it requires complete testing. Amongst other things tests may be conducted with the objective of determining the extent of spread of the disease.

Some of the most common tests that a patient may be subject to are:

  • Urine Analysis: As discussed in the article on symptoms presence of blood in the urine is the most common symptom of kidney cancer. Urine analysis often forms a part of complete physical examination. The sample is observed under the microscope and also subject to chemical analysis to detect blood and substances that may not be visible with the naked eye. Nearly 50% of patients complaining of kidney cancer report urine in the blood. When observed under the microscope cancer cells may be observed in the sample.pee in blood
  • Blood Tests: Kidney cancer may also be detected through blood tests. Some of the common conditions that may be detected during these tests are – anaemia, erythrocytosis. In some cases a high level of enzymes indicating higher liver function and calcium may also be observed.
  • Ultrasound: Ultrasound uses sound waves for detecting any irregularities in the body. An ultrasound is normally requested after blood is detected in the urine. Internal organs reflect back the sound waves as echoes.
  • Chest X-Ray: A simple X-ray of the chest may be done to determine if the lungs have been affected by the disease. In case anything is detected a CT Scan may be recommended in order to determine its exact nature.
  • CT Scan: A CT Scan takes pictures of the body from various angles which are later combined to obtain a detailed image of the body. A CT Scan produces images of the internal organs. The images produced are highly detailed. A patient may be asked to ingest a die orally or it may be injected before a scan in order to obtain contrast images. A painless procedure it is the dye that may cause a hot flushing or some other allergic reaction.
  • MRI: An MRI may also be conducted with the objective of obtaining cross sectional images of parts of the body. While a CT Scan is more suitable for soft tissue, an MRI scan is suitable for the bones. Creating a cross sectional image of various organs in the body allows an examination of various layers. Patients who may have had prosthetic replacements, pacemakers and metal plates need to discuss them with their physician before being subject to the test.
  • Angiography: This procedure is used for visualizing the arteries with the help of a catheter that is threaded to a large artery in the leg leading to the kidney. Using a dye an outline of the blood vessels is obtained. An angiography proves helpful for a surgeon in planning the process better. It can also be used for diagnosing kidney cancers as blood vessels with tumors look different from the normal.
  • PET Scan: This is a specialized test that provides extensive information about cancer that may have spread. It is still to be determined how effective a PET Scan is for cases of kidney cancer. The test analyzes the metabolism process in the cells and proves useful in determining differences between malignant and benign tumors. The test is also used for analyzing the efficacy of treatments being given.
  • Cytoscopy: The test uses a light and a lens for determining the functioning of the bladder and the urethra for cancer.
  • Bone Scan: For a bone scan a radioactive material is injected into the veins. The material is allowed to travel in the bloodstream and reach the bones in order to detect a tumor. It is used for checking if the cancer has spread to the bones. It is always used in combination with other tests.
  • Biopsy: If tests conducted do not clearly indicate the presence of cancer a biopsy may be performed. In this a small sample of tissue is taken, examined and checked for malignancy. The most common method of doing a biopsy is using the FNAC (Fine needle aspiration) in which a fine needle is injected into the mass for removing tissue for a sample. The sample is analyzed for malignancy.kidney cancer

After all the necessary tests are done, the doctor reviews the results. If the diagnosis indicates cancer, the results of various tests help understand the nature and stage of the disease. It is important to have an understanding of the risk factors and causes of kidney cancer. Staging of kidney cancer is dependent on tumor size, its location and whether it has spread or is localized. The stages for kidney cancer are between I to IV.

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Please note: None of the information provided above substitutes for medical advice.


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  • meetunayyar
  • A lawyer by profession, social worker and a fighter against cancer