Diagnosis and Prognosis of Kidney Cancer
by Debra Wood, RN
Kidney cancer is often found during an imaging test for another reason. Your doctor will ask about your symptoms (if you have any), and medical and family history. The abdominal, pelvic, and back areas will be carefully examined. Your doctor may recommend different tests in order to identify any tumors and confirm diagnosis.
Suspicion of Kidney Cancer
Certain urinary symptoms can be caused by a range of medical conditions. If you are having urinary symptoms, your doctor may conduct certain tests to identify abnormalities. These may include:
Unlike other cancers, kidney cancer can be diagnosed with imaging tests. Imaging tests can also help assess tumor size and location. Some tests use contrast material to highlight structures so images are more clear and detailed. Imaging tests may include:
Diagnosis of Kidney Cancer
If for some reason these tests are unclear, a biopsy can be done to confirm a diagnosis. A biopsy is done with a fine needle or core needle (a wider, hollow cylinder). The device is inserted into the kidney to collect tissue samples. The samples are examined under a microscope for the presence of cancer cells.
Staging of Kidney Cancer
If kidney cancer is confirmed, results from completed tests and new tests will help determine the stage of cancer. Staging is used to identify characteristics of the tumor that will help determine the prognosis and treatment plan. Factors that play a role on staging include how far the original tumor has spread, whether lymph nodes are involved, if cancer has spread to other tissue, and microscopic cellular details.
Imaging tests are used to help determine how deep the tumor has moved into the kidney or nearby structures. They may also help to determine if there are any metastatic growths in other areas of the body. Contrast material may be used in some tests to enhance details. Imaging tests may include:
Stages of Kidney Cancer
Kidney cancer is staged from I-IV.
Kidney cancer. National Kidney Foundation website. Available at: https://www.kidney.org/atoz/content/kidneycancer. Accessed January 3, 2017.
Kidney cancer (adult)—renal cell carcinoma. American Cancer Society website. Available at:
...(Click grey area to select URL)
Accessed January 3, 2017.
Renal cell carcinoma. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at: http://www.dynamed.... Updated March 14, 2016. Accessed January 3, 2017.
Renal cell carcinoma. Merck Manual Professional Version website. Available at:
...(Click grey area to select URL)
Updated November 2013. Accessed January 3, 2017.
Stages of renal cell cancer. National Cancer Institute website. Available at: https://www.cancer.gov/types/kidney/patient/kidney-treatment-pdq#section/_26. Updated December 23, 2016. Accessed January 3, 2017.
Last reviewed December 2016 by Mohei Abouzied, MD
Last Updated: 12/29/2015
EBSCO Information Services is fully accredited by URAC. URAC is an independent, nonprofit health care accrediting organization dedicated to promoting health care quality through accreditation, certification and commendation.
This content is reviewed regularly and is updated when new and relevant evidence is made available. This information is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with questions regarding a medical condition.
To send comments or feedback to our Editorial Team regarding the content please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. Our Health Library Support team will respond to your email request within 2 business days.