Kidney cancer affects roughly three out of every 10,000 people in the United States, and close to 31,000 new cases arise each year throughout the country.
12,000 people will die from kidney cancer each year. One of the most common ways to diagnose kidney cancer, without even having blood drawn or having tests taken, is to analyze any symptoms that the patient is suffering from.
In regards to kidney cancer, most patients with the disease will have blood in their urine, pain in the flank section of their body, and an abnormal mass near their kidneys.
Another option before testing, is for the patient’s doctor to analyze the patient’s medical history and perform a complete physical. Performing a physical could help diagnose kidney cancer without performing any other tests available today.
Testing for Kidney Cancer
There are a handful of tests that are available today to help diagnose kidney cancer. Those tests include ultrasound, CT scan, MRI, a biopsy of a tissue sample, a cystoscopy and x-rays of the patient’s urinary system (excretory urogram).
- Ultrasound: An ultrasound will use high frequency sound waves to generate images of your internal organs, such as the bladder and kidneys, to help doctors find a cancerous tumor.
- MRI: An MRI will create cross sectional images of your body, identifying any problem spots on the kidneys or bladder.
- Biopsy: A biopsy is when a doctor takes a piece of tissue and runs laboratory tests on that piece of tissue to determine if there is cancer present.
- X-Ray: To take x-rays of the kidneys, the doctor will inject a dye into your body that is processed by the kidneys, making it easier for x-rays to see the kidneys and help diagnose cancer. The final test available today is the cystoscopy. A cystoscopy is a long tube that enters the body through the urethra and can examine the area in question and can remove tissue for a biopsy if necessary.
Staging Kidney Cancer
The staging of kidney cancer takes place after all or some of the above tests have been completed by the patient’s doctors. If the doctor cannot stage the cancer after one round of tests, then he or she may need to schedule additional tests such as a CT scan or an MRI to further determine what the stage of the cancer is.
All of the tests listed above are extremely helpful in determining how to stage the cancer. If a doctor incorrectly stages a cancer than the ensuing treatment might not be effective. The staging of kidney cancer, as with any other type of cancer, is vitally important to the treatment of the disease. The resulting treatment is dependent upon which stage the cancer is in.
Stages of Kidney Cancer
As with all other forms of cancer, kidney cancer is staged in four different stages.
- Stage I: This stage of kidney cancer is when the tumor is relatively small and is confined to the kidneys.
- Stage II: This stage of kidney cancer is when the tumor is larger than a stage one tumor but it is still confined to the kidney.
- Stage III: This stage of kidney cancer is when the tumor extends beyond the kidney to surrounding tissue or the adrenal glands. The cancer might also spread to nearby lymph nodes.
- Stage IV: This stage of kidney cancer, the highest stage, is when the cancer has spread to other areas of the body outside the kidney.