Kidney Cancer: Symptoms and Signs

Approved by the Cancer.Net Editorial Board, 10/2021

ON THIS PAGE: You will find out more about changes and other things that can signal a problem that may need medical care. Use the menu to see other pages.

Often, kidney cancer is found when a person has an imaging test, such as ultrasound, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), or computed tomography (CT) scan (see Diagnosis), for another reason. In its earliest stages, kidney cancer causes no pain. Therefore, symptoms of the disease usually appear when the tumor grows large and begins to affect nearby organs.

People with kidney cancer may experience the following symptoms or signs. Symptoms are changes that you can feel in your body. Signs are changes in something measured, like by taking your blood pressure or doing a lab test. Together, symptoms and signs can help describe a medical problem. Sometimes, people with kidney cancer do not have any of the symptoms and signs described below. In other cases, the cause of a symptom or sign may be a medical condition that is not cancer.

  • 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

  • Anemia, which is a low red blood cell count

  • Fatigue

  • Loss of appetite

  • Unexplained weight loss

  • Fever that keeps coming back and is not from a cold, flu, or other infection

  • In the testicles, a rapid development of a cluster of enlarged veins, known as a varicocele, around a testicle, particularly the right testicle, may indicate that a large kidney tumor may be present

If you are concerned about any changes you experience, please talk with your doctor. Your doctor will ask how long and how often you’ve been experiencing the symptom(s), in addition to other questions. This is to help figure out the cause of the problem, called a diagnosis.

If cancer is diagnosed, relieving symptoms remains an important part of cancer care and treatment. Managing symptoms may also be called "palliative care" or "supportive care." It is often started soon after diagnosis and continued throughout treatment. Be sure to talk with your health care team about the symptoms you experience, including any new symptoms or a change in symptoms.

The next section in this guide is DiagnosisIt explains what tests may be needed to learn more about the cause of the symptoms. Use the menu to choose a different section to read in this guide.