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Kidney cancer screening can be challenging. Currently, there are no recommended screening tests for individuals who do not have certain risk factors. Because kidney tumors can grow without causing pain, bleeding or other symptoms, the cancer can sometimes remain undetected until it reaches an advanced stage. Also, because the kidneys are situated deep within the abdomen, small tumors are not easily detected with a physical examination. That’s why urinalysis – often included as part of a complete medical examination – can be an important initial screening tool for physicians because it can sometimes detect the presence of small amounts of blood in the urine that would not be evident to the naked eye.

Tests for patients at high risk for kidney cancer

For patients who have risk factors such as certain inherited conditions, physicians typically recommend regular imaging tests to look for kidney tumors. These tests may include:

  • Intravenous pyelogram (IVP) – This test involves injecting a contrast dye into a patient’s bloodstream, after which a series of X-rays are taken as the dye moves through the kidneys, ureters and bladder.
  • CT scan – This test compiles a series of detailed X-ray images taken from different angles. A dye may be introduced into the patient’s bloodstream so the kidneys show up more clearly.
  • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) – This procedure uses a magnet and radio waves to take a series of detailed images of the kidneys and other adjacent tissues.
  • Ultrasound – During this test, high-energy sound waves reflect off internal tissues, and the resulting echoes collectively form a visual image called a sonogram.

These kidney cancer screening methods can lead to early detection, prompt treatment and improved outcomes for high-risk patients.

What are signs that something is wrong with your kidneys?

Because kidney tumors sometimes grow without highly noticeable symptoms, it's important to pay attention to signs something might be wrong. While early symptoms might only include stomach pain and fatigue, some other signs that something might be wrong include:

  • Blood in the urine
  • Anemia
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Swelling in the ankles or feet
  • A persistent fever not caused by a viral or bacterial infection

Moffitt's approach to kidney cancer screening

In the Urologic Oncology Program at Moffitt Cancer Center, our physicians and researchers are committed to finding better, more accurate screening techniques in order to detect and address kidney cancer as early as possible. Our multispecialty team includes surgeons, medical oncologists and radiation oncologists, all of whom have years of experience focused specifically on diagnosing and treating kidney cancer. Working together, these experts are continually increasing our understanding of the condition as we work toward our goal of ultimately defeating it.

Contact Moffitt Cancer by calling 1-888-663-3488 or by using our convenient online new patient registration form to learn more about the kidney cancer screening options that are available, or to ask any other questions you might have. No referrals are necessary to visit Moffitt Cancer Center.