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Often, kidney cancer is found when a person has an x-ray or ultrasound (see Diagnosis) for another reason. In its earliest stages, kidney cancer causes no pain. Therefore, symptoms of the disease usually appear when the tumor is large and begins to affect nearby organs.
People with kidney cancer may experience the following symptoms or signs. Sometimes, people with kidney cancer do not show any of these symptoms. Or, these symptoms may be caused by a medical condition that is not cancer. If you are concerned about a symptom or sign on this list, please talk with your doctor.
- Blood in the urine
- Pain or pressure in the side or back
- A mass or lump in the side or back
- Swelling of the ankles and legs
- High blood pressure or anemia (low red blood cell count)
- Loss of appetite
- Unexplained weight loss
- Recurrent fever (not from cold, flu, or other infection)
- For men, a rapid development of a varicocele (a cluster of enlarged veins) around the testicle
Your doctor will ask you questions about the symptoms you are experiencing to help find out the cause of the problem, called a diagnosis. This may include how long you've been experiencing the symptom(s) and how often.
If cancer is diagnosed, relieving symptoms and side effects remains an important part of cancer care and treatment. This may also be called symptom management, palliative care, or supportive care. Be sure to talk with your health care team about symptoms you experience, including any new symptoms or a change in symptoms.
Routine screening tests to detect kidney cancer early are not available. Doctors may recommend that people with a high risk of the disease have imaging tests (see Diagnosis) to look inside the body. For people with a family history of kidney cancer, CT scans are sometimes used to search for early-stage kidney cancer. However, CT scans have not been proven to be a useful screening tool for kidney cancer for most people.