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Early-stage kidney cancer usually does not produce noticeable symptoms. Because the kidneys are located deep within the body, signs of kidney cancer may not become apparent until a tumor grows very large and affects surrounding tissues or kidney function. In many cases, kidney cancer is detected in a diagnostic test or imaging study performed for an unrelated reason.

Kidney cancer symptoms to watch for

In some cases, the first sign of kidney cancer is bloody urine, which may appear dark red, orange or pink in color. As kidney cancer progresses, it may produce other symptoms, such as:

  • Persistent pain or pressure felt just below the ribs
  • Intense fatigue
  • Intermittent fever
  • Anemia (a decrease in the number of red cells in the blood)
  • A palpable mass or thickening in the side or back

The kidneys play an important role in the body’s metabolic and digestive processes. Cancer can affect kidney function, which in turn could impair the body’s ability to break down, absorb and dispose of food. This could become apparent in symptoms such as loss of appetite or unintended weight loss.

While kidney cancer can produce any of these symptoms, it’s important to understand that none are exclusive to kidney cancer. More often, the symptoms are related to a less serious issue. Even so, they should never be ignored. An early kidney cancer diagnosis can help ensure the best possible outcome and quality of life.

What to do if you have kidney cancer symptoms

Any symptoms of kidney cancer should be promptly brought to the attention of a physician, who can order tests to help determine the cause. The diagnostic process may include a physical examination, urinalysis and blood tests to check kidney, liver and metabolic function. If a lump or mass is found, a biopsy will be recommended.

If you’d like to discuss your kidney cancer symptoms with a specialist in the Urologic Oncology Program at Moffitt Cancer Center, you can do so with or without a referral. To request an appointment, call 1-888-663-3488 or complete a new patient registration form online.