The early symptoms of kidney cancer

kidney cancer

The early symptoms of kidney cancer may appear only until the tumor has spread to nearby organs. This may be because either these tumors can grow very large without causing pain or any other symptoms in the early stages, because small tumors can go undetected during a physical exam because the kidneys are located deep inside the body, or because there are no routine screening tests for people who are at average risk of kidney cancer. As a result, many kidney cancers are actually found fortuitously during imaging tests like X-ray or ultrasound being performed for a different, unrelated reason.

When there are symptoms, they may include:

·         Blood in the urine.

·         Pain or pressure in the side or back.

·         A mass in the side or back.

·         Ankle and leg swelling.

·         High blood pressure or anemia.

·         Tiredness.

·         Appetite loss.

·         Losing weight without trying.

·         Recurring fever not caused by cold, flu, or other infection.

·         A rapidly developing group of enlarged veins around a testicle.

Since there is no specific tests that has been demonstrated to reduce the risk of death by kidney cancer, people who are at increased risk should talk to their doctor about their lifestyle habits and healthcare choices. Risk factors include:

·         Gender (male).

·         Age (50 to 70 years).

·         Ethnicity (African-American).

·         Weight (obesity caused by years of a high-fat diet).

·         Smoking.

·         High blood pressure.

·         Overuse of medications (phenacetin, diuretics and analgesic pain pills like aspirin, acetaminophen, and ibuprofen).

·         Cadmium exposure.

·         Family history (first-degree relatives with kidney cancer).

·         Long-term dialysis for kidney failure.

Among the risk factors for kidney cancer, certain hereditary conditions deserve special consideration, such as the following:

Von Hippel-Lindau syndrome (VHL)

40% of people with VHL develop kidney cancer

Hereditary non-VHL clear cell renal cell carcinoma

Increased risk of developing clear cell renal cell carcinoma.

Hereditary papillary renal cell carcinoma

Increased risk of developing more than one kidney tumor and tumors on both kidneys.

Birt-Hogg-Dubé syndrome

Increased risk of noncancerous and cancerous kidney tumors.

Hereditary leiomyomatosis and renal cell carcinoma

Increased risk of developing type 2 papillary renal cell carcinoma.

Tuberous sclerosis complex

Increased risk of developing kidney cancer.


It is important to note that some people with several of these risk factors never develop kidney cancer – and the opposite is also true. However, if you feel you are at higher risk, or have experienced the early symptoms of kidney cancer, let your physician know. There is an extensive battery of tests that can help establish or confirm a kidney cancer diagnosis.

Lab tests

Imaging tests


·         Urine tests

·         Complete blood count

·         Blood chemistry tests

·         Computed tomography scan (CT)

·         Magnetic resonance imaging scan (MRI)

·         Ultrasound

·         Positron emission tomography scan (PET)

·         Intravenous pyelogram

·         Angiography

·         Chest X-ray

·         Bone scan

·         Fine needle aspiration

·         Needle core biopsy

·         Fuhrman grade


Once a diagnosis has been determined, the prognosis depends on the stage of the cancer. That is, the more the tumor has progressed the fewer chances of survival the patient has.



5/year survival rate


Tumor is 2 ¾” (7cm) or smaller, only located in the kidney, hasn’t spread to the lymph nodes or distant organs.



Tumor is larger than 2 ¾” (7cm), only located in the kidney, hasn’t spread to the lymph nodes or distant organs.



·         A tumor of any size located only in the kidney has spread to the regional lymph nodes but not to other parts of the body; or,

·         It has grown into major veins or perinephric tissue and may or may not have spread to regional lymph nodes but not to other parts of the body.



·         The tumor has spread to areas beyond Gerota's fascia and into the adrenal gland on the same side of the body as the tumor, possibly to lymph nodes, but not to other parts of the body; or,

·         It has spread to any other organ, for instance the lungs, bones, or the brain.



Treatment for kidney cancer also depends on the size and stage of the tumor, as well as potential side effects and the patient’s health and preferences. Treatment may be divided into the following three categories:



For advanced or recurring cancer

·         Removal of the kidney (radical nephrectomy)

·         Removal of the tumor (partial nephrectomy)

·         Laparoscopic and robotic surgery

·         Freezing cancers cells (cryoablation)

·         Heating cancer cells (radiofrequency ablation)

·         Targeted therapy

·         Immunotherapy

·         Radiation therapy

Unlike most forms of cancers, kidney cancer is often chemotherapy-resistant, though researchers are constantly studying new drugs and combinations such as gemcitabine and capecitabine or fluorouracil, which temporarily reduces tumor size in some patients.