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Kidney Cancer
Diagnosis

To find the cause of symptoms, your doctor may ask about your medical history and perform a physical exam. In addition to checking for general signs of health, your doctor may perform blood and urine tests. Your doctor also may carefully feel the abdomen for lumps or irregular masses.

Other tests that produce pictures of the kidneys and nearby organs are often recommended. These pictures can often show changes in the kidney and surrounding tissue. For example, an intravenous pyelogram (IVP) is a series of X-rays of the kidneys, ureters, and bladder after the injection of a dye into the veins. The pictures produced can show changes in the shape of these organs.

Another test, arteriography, is a series of X-rays of the blood vessels. Dye is injected into a large blood vessel through a catheter. X-rays show the dye as it moves through the network of smaller blood vessels in and around the kidney.

Kidney cancer, however, is most commonly detected with either computed tomography (CT) scan, ultrasound or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI).

  • Abdominal Ultrasound — Sound waves, called ultrasound, that cannot be heard by humans, are sent into the abdomen. The waves bounce off the kidneys and a computer uses the echoes to create a picture called a sonogram.
  • Computed Tomography (CT) Scan — A series of detailed pictures of areas inside the body, taken from different angles. The pictures are created by a computer linked to an X-ray machine. This also is called computerized tomography and computerized axial tomography (CAT) scan.
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) — A procedure in which a magnet linked to a computer is used to create detailed pictures of areas inside the body.

Reviewed by health care specialists at UCSF Medical Center.