Kidney Cancer | Symptoms and Diagnosis | MedStar Health
A young male doctor explains the urinary system to a patient using an anatomic model in a clinical setting.

Kidneys are bean-shaped organs that are located in the back, just below the ribcage, on both sides of the body. Their job is to clean the blood from any impurities. This extra waste is sent to the bladder, where it is stored until urination. Approximately 30,000 cases of kidney cancer will be diagnosed in the United States yearly, according to the American Cancer Society.

At MedStar Health, we provide comprehensive care for kidney cancer including:

  • Laparoscopic radical nephrectomy

  • Open radical nephrectomy for large tumors

  • Partial nephrectomy for preservation of the kidney. This procedure can be done through traditional open surgery, laparoscopically, or through robotic surgery

  • Small molecule targeted therapy for late-stage treatment

  • Palliative services

Symptoms of kidney cancer

Symptoms of kidney cancer may include:

  • Blood in the urine

  • Pain during urination

  • Pain in the pelvis

  • A feeling of generalized pressure in the pelvis. This may be caused by the tumor pressing on other organs near the kidneys

Diagnosis of kidney cancer

Your doctor will ask for a complete medical history and will perform a thorough physical examination. Diagnostic tests may include:

  • Analysis of urine under a microscope to check for blood

  • Radiological imaging of the entire urologic system, including ultrasound

  • CT scan

  • MRI

  • Bone scan, to check for spread of cancer

  • PET scan

Treatment for kidney cancer

Fortunately, the treatment for kidney cancer has become technologically advanced. Sophisticated imaging scans like CTs and MRIs make finding smaller tumors easier. In some cases, your doctor will be able to determine if the mass on your kidney is malignant from a scan.

Minimally invasive techniques

One of the main goals of cancer treatment is to use minimally invasive techniques such as laparoscopic and robotic surgeries to speed healing and recovery after surgery. During laparoscopic surgery, small instruments are placed into the abdomen and the kidney or part of the kidney is removed through smaller incisions. This often results in markedly reduced pain, shorter hospital stays, and quick resumption of normal activities than traditional surgery.

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