Screening and diagnosis
In addition to taking a complete medical history and performing a physical exam, your doctor will likely recommend blood and urine tests. You may also have one or more of these tests to check for growths or tumors:
Intravenous pyelogram (IVP). In this test, a contrast dye is injected into a vein in your arm. A series of X-rays are taken as the dye moves through your kidneys, ureters and bladder.
Ultrasound examination. An ultrasound isn't an X-ray. Instead, it uses high-frequency sound waves to generate images of your internal organs, such as your kidneys and bladder, on a computer screen.
Computerized tomography (CT) or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan. CT scans use computers to create more detailed images than those created by conventional X-rays. MRI scans use magnetic fields and radio waves to generate cross-sectional pictures of your body.
Biopsy. In this test, a sample of tissue is removed and examined under a microscope. It's the only way to confirm the presence of cancer. Depending on the results of the biopsy, your doctor may recommend removing a tumor right away.
Tests for transitional cell cancer
If the results of an IVP suggest transitional cell cancer, your doctor will likely recommend a test that examines your bladder for signs of cancer (cystoscopy). In this procedure, a long, narrow tube called a cystoscope is inserted through your urethra into your bladder. The tube carries a light source and special lens, which allow your doctor to inspect both your urethra and bladder. The cystoscope can also be used to remove a small tissue sample from a tumor. In some cases a microscopic examination of the sediment in your urine may also help identify cancer cells.
Tests to determine whether cancer has spread
If your doctor finds signs of kidney cancer, the next step is to determine whether the cancer has spread. This usually means more tests, including additional blood tests, an ultrasound of your liver, a CT scan, a chest X-ray or a bone scan. A bone scan is a test in which you're given a small amount of a radioactive material that's then taken up by your bones. Tumors absorb even more of this material and show up as a black area when a special camera scans your body.
If your doctor decides your diseased kidney should be removed, he or she will also want to make sure your other kidney is healthy. In almost all cases, you can function well with one normal kidney.
If you've received a diagnosis of kidney cancer, you may want to seek a second opinion. Sometimes your insurance company may even require you to do so. In that case, your current doctor may be able to recommend other specialists.
Kidney cancer >1 > 2 > 3 > 4