Tests and diagnosisBy Mayo Clinic staff
Diagnosing kidney cancer
Tests and procedures used to diagnose kidney cancer include:
- Blood and urine tests. Tests of your blood and your urine may give your doctor clues about what's causing your signs and symptoms.
- Imaging tests. Imaging tests allow your doctor to visualize a kidney tumor or abnormality. Imaging tests might include ultrasound, computerized tomography (CT) or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI).
- Removing a sample of kidney tissue (biopsy). In very selected cases, your doctor may recommend a procedure to remove a small sample of cells (biopsy) from a suspicious area of your kidney. Because surgery is usually the first line treatment for kidney cancer and a kidney biopsy carries the risk of a "false-negative," doctors usually forgo kidney biopsy. Kidney biopsy is typically reserved for cases that are most likely to be noncancerous or for people who can't undergo an operation.
Kidney cancer staging
Once your doctor diagnoses kidney cancer, the next step is to determine the extent, or stage, of the cancer. Staging tests for kidney cancer may include additional CT scans or other imaging tests your doctor feels are appropriate.
Then your doctor assigns a number, called a stage, to your cancer. Kidney cancer stages include:
- Stage I. At this stage, the tumor can be up to 2 3/4 inches (7 centimeters) in diameter. The tumor is confined to the kidney.
- Stage II. A stage II kidney cancer is larger than a stage I tumor, but is still confined to the kidney.
- Stage III. At this stage, the tumor extends beyond the kidney to the surrounding tissue and may also have spread to a nearby lymph node.
- Stage IV. Cancer spreads outside the kidney, to multiple lymph nodes or to distant parts of the body, such as the bones, brain, liver or lungs.
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