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Kidney cancer originates in the kidneys, two bean-shaped organs located just below the rib cage, one on each side of the spine. The most common type is renal cell carcinoma, which forms in the kidneys’ tiny tubes (tubules). As the kidneys filter blood, the tubules return water and essential nutrients to the bloodstream and direct waste products into the urine.

Kidney cancer cases are currently on the rise. Experts believe this trend may be partially due to the widespread use of computed tomography (CT) scans. This sophisticated imaging technology can sometimes reveal kidney cancer in a diagnostic test performed for an unrelated reason.

What are the warning signs of kidney cancer?

Because early-stage kidney cancer is often “silent,” it is important to promptly discuss any unusual changes with a physician who can provide an accurate diagnosis. Early detection of kidney cancer can allow for a wider range of treatment options.

5 early symptoms of kidney cancer

Early-stage kidney cancer may not cause noticeable symptoms, but the initial sign of a growing tumor may be:

  1. Blood in the urine (hematuria)
  2. Unintended weight loss
  3. Chronic fever unrelated to infection
  4. Low red blood cell levels (anemia)
  5. Swelling in the ankles or feet

As the tumor continues to grow, it may begin to pressure nearby organs and tissues and cause more distinct symptoms.

What does kidney cancer look like?

In some cases, blood in the urine is the first sign that something might be amiss. Bloody urine can range in color from light pink to dark red. Hematuria can have many causes unrelated to kidney cancer, such as a bladder infection or kidney stone. This underscores the importance of consulting with a physician right away.

What does kidney cancer feel like?

As kidney cancer advances, other symptoms may become apparent, such as:

  • Persistent pain in the side or back unrelated to an injury
  • A lump that can be felt in the flank between the ribs and hip
  • Night sweats and fever unrelated to infection
  • Overwhelming fatigue

How can a physician determine the cause of kidney cancer symptoms?

During the diagnostic process, a physician may order a series of tests, such as:

  • Bloodwork
  • Urinalysis
  • Ultrasound
  • Computed tomography (CT)
  • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)

In many cases, kidney cancer can be detected before it spreads to other organs, when there are generally more treatment options available.

Frequently asked questions (FAQs) about kidney cancer signs and symptoms

The following FAQs-related articles provide additional information about the warning signs and symptoms of kidney cancer:

If you have been diagnosed with kidney cancer, Moffitt can help. Request an appointment with one of our experts today.
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Benefit from world-class care at Moffitt Cancer Center

Moffitt’s highly acclaimed Urologic Oncology Program brings together a group of world-renowned experts in a wide variety of disciplines. If you have kidney cancer symptoms, our multispecialty team can provide an accurate diagnosis, and if necessary, suggest a treatment plan tailored to your specific condition, health history and lifestyle.

Moffitt offers a full range of treatment options for kidney cancer, including chemotherapy and radiation therapy. Additionally, our surgeons are skilled and experienced in utilizing cutting-edge surgical techniques and technologies, such as laparoscopy and robotic-assisted procedures, which can maximize the effectiveness—and minimize the invasiveness and recovery time—of surgical treatment.

If you would like to have your kidney cancer symptoms evaluated by a specialist in our Urologic Oncology Program, you can request an appointment without a referral. Call 1-888-663-3488  or submit a new patient registration form online.


What Is Kidney Cancer? | Renal Cancer
Kidney Cancer: Symptoms, Diagnosis & Treatment - Urology Care Foundation
Kidney Cancer | CDC