How is Kidney Cancer Diagnosed?


A variety of diagnostic tests can be used to detect and diagnose kidney cancer, including:

  • Urine tests - A urine sample is analyzed to check traces of blood and other substances that indicate kidney cancer. Special tests called urine cytology may be conducted to detect actual cancer cells in the sample.
  • Blood tests - Used to assess kidney function, check blood cell counts, and measure electrolyte/chemical levels. Blood tests provide doctors with information about the patient's overall condition to plan proper treatment methods.
  • Imaging tests - Such as CT scans, MRIs, or ultrasound exams. Doctors use these tests to create images of areas in the patient's body to check for cancerous tissue, visualize tumor growth, and see if cancer has spread to nearby tissue.
  • Biopsy - Doctors use a needle to take a small tissue sample of the kidney. A pathologist then examines the sample to check for cancer cells.
  • Surgery - Can be used to diagnose and treat kidney cancer that has not spread to other parts of the body

These tests are used not only to diagnose kidney cancer, but also to determine the most effective treatment options for the patient.

How is Kidney Cancer Treated?


The experts at NewYork-Presbyterian determine the best treatment approach for each patient with kidney cancer by considering the type, location, and stage of the disease as well as the patient's age and physical health. 

Kidney cancer treatment options include: 

  • Surgery - Part of the kidney or the entire kidney may be surgically removed. Minimally invasive approaches such as laparoscopy are generally preferable to open procedures because they can more easily allow surgeons to remove the tumor while leaving enough tissue for the kidney to function.
  • Targeted drug therapy - Targeted drugs treat kidney cancer by blocking specific pathways active in kidney cancer progression. For example, they can inhibit the growth of blood vessels and other materials that help cancer survive. Many of these types of drugs have been approved in the last several years. Usually, doctors try using one targeted drug at a time to test which works most effectively, but combinations of the drugs may be administered in certain cases. 
  • Radiation therapy - Uses high-energy radiation to kill cancer cells. This treatment method is used to alleviate pain, bleeding, and symptoms caused by kidney cancer that has spread to other parts of the body, like the bones and brain. This can be recommended if a patient is not a candidate for surgery.
  • Immunotherapy - This treatment boosts or restores the body's natural defenses against cancer. Immunotherapy targets special proteins that kidney cancer cells can use to hide from the immune system, enabling the body to detect and kill cancer cells more effectively. It can be used on its own or in combination with surgery.
  • Ablation – This process uses heat or cold to kill cancerous cells. In cryoablation, a special needle is used to insert cold gas into the tumor to freeze cancerous cells. In radiofrequency ablation, a needle is inserted into the tumor. An electrical current runs through the needle and heats the cancer cells to kill them.
  • Chemotherapy - Uses medication that is either taken orally or intravenously to kill cancer cells. Kidney cancer cells often do not respond well to chemotherapy, so it is not a standard treatment method and is usually only recommended after immunotherapy or targeted drug therapy.

Surgery is usually the first treatment choice for localized kidney cancer, but not all patients are good candidates for kidney surgery. If the cancer is more advanced or the patient only has one kidney, doctors may treat kidney cancer patients with radiation, chemotherapy, immunotherapy, targeted therapies, or a combination of these.



Kidney cancer can spread at different rates depending on various factors, including the patient's overall health and age and the type of kidney cancer.

Kidney cancer can affect multiple generations within a family. This is known as hereditary kidney cancer. However, this is very rare, only accounting for about 5% of kidney cancer cases. Certain inherited syndromes can increase a person's likelihood of developing kidney cancer, and genetic testing can be conducted to detect if a person has inherited these syndromes.

Kidney cancer often spreads to the bones, liver, lungs, and brain. It can also spread to lymph nodes, ovaries, testicles, and the adrenal glands, which are the glands located on the top of the kidneys that secrete hormones to regulate body functions (like heart rate and blood pressure).

Kidney cancer is among the top 10 most common cancers in men and women, and the American Cancer Society estimates that there will be 79,000 new kidney cancer diagnoses in the U.S. this year. Kidney cancer is almost twice as common in men than in women, and African Americans are more likely to develop the disease. Kidney cancer is very uncommon in people under the age of 45.

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Trust NewYork-Presbyterian for Kidney Cancer Treatment

At NewYork-Presbyterian, our healthcare experts are at the forefront of new technologies and tools used for treating cancer. We understand the symptoms of kidney cancer and recognize that each patient's unique condition is key to effective treatment. Schedule an appointment today to begin your personalized plan of care.