Cancer screening exams can help find kidney cancer at its earliest stage when the chances for successful treatment, optimal outcomes and fewer side effects are greatest. These tests are usually done when a patient is healthy and has no specific symptoms.

Not only are expert cancer researchers at the OSUCCC – James continually working to detect and diagnose kidney cancer early, but they are also developing additional tests to detect and diagnose cancer even earlier, leading to improved outcomes, faster responses and fewer side effects.

Kidney Cancer Risk Factors

A kidney cancer risk factor is anything that increases your chances of developing the disease. The following factors may play a role in the development of kidney cancer:

  • Smoking
  • Obesity
  • High blood pressure
  • Misusing certain pain medicines, including over-the-counter pain medicines, for long periods
  • Having certain genetic conditions, such as von Hippel-Lindau disease or hereditary papillary renal cell carcinoma

(Source: National Cancer Institute)

Not everyone with risk factors will get kidney cancer. But having certain risk factors may increase your risk of developing the disease. If you are at high risk for kidney cancer, talk to your doctor about tests to find out if you have early signs of the disease.

Diagnosing Kidney Cancer

If kidney cancer is suspected, your OSUCCC – James expert will examine you and record your medical history and any symptoms and risk factors you may have.

These experts may also conduct the following tests to form a diagnosis:

Blood Tests

Blood Chemistry Tests

This procedure analyzes blood for certain chemicals, such as enzymes released by cells into the body. Chemicals above or below a certain level may indicate cancer.

Liver Function Tests

A blood sample is tested to measure certain proteins or other substances released into the blood. Certain levels of enzymes may indicate the presence of cancer in the liver.


Urine color and contents are checked for the presence and level of substances such as sugar and red or white blood cells. 

Imaging Tests

Imaging tests produce pictures of the inside of the body. Tests may include one of the following:

Intravenous Pyelogram (IVP)

A series of X-rays of the kidneys, ureters (the tubes that send urine from the kidneys to the bladder) and bladder to check for cancer. A contrast dye is used during this procedure to help the OSUCCC – James experts see any blockages.

Computed Tomography Scan (CT Scan)

A type of X-ray test that produces detailed, cross-sectional images of your body.

Magnetic Resonance Imaging Scan (MRI Scan)

MRI scans use radio waves and strong magnets instead of X-rays. MRI scans are helpful when the OSUCCC – James specialists may need to see the entire body.


A test that uses sound waves and echoes to make a picture of internal organs or masses. Ultrasound can be used to look at lymph nodes near the surface of the body or to look for enlarged organs inside the abdomen such as the kidneys, liver and spleen.


A piece of tissue or tumor is biopsy is removed so that a specially trained OSUCCC – James pathologist can examine the cells under a microscope for any signs of cancer.

Staging Kidney Cancer

If you are diagnosed with kidney cancer, staging is just one of many ways your OSUCCC – James cancer experts can determine the amount and location of your cancer, and it can help them choose the most effective, personalized treatment options for your particular cancer. The staging classification remains the same throughout treatment.

Kidney cancer is classified as one of four stages:

Stage I

The tumor is 7 centimeters or smaller and is found only in the kidney.

Stage II

The tumor is larger than 7 centimeters and is found only in the kidney.

Stage III

  • The tumor is any size and cancer is found only in the kidney and in one or more nearby lymph nodes; or
  • Cancer is found in the main blood vessels of the kidney or in the layer of fatty tissue around the kidney; cancer may be found in one or more nearby lymph nodes

Stage IV

  • Cancer has spread beyond the layer of fatty tissue around the kidney to the adrenal gland or in nearby lymph nodes; or
  • Cancer has spread to other organs, such as the lungs, liver, bones or brain, and may have spread to lymph nodes

(Source: National Cancer Institute)

If you’ve been diagnosed with kidney cancer, would like a second opinion or would like to speak with a kidney cancer specialist, please call The James Line at 800-293-5066 or 614-293-5066 to make an appointment.

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The James Cancer Hospital and Solove Research Institute

460 West 10th Avenue

Columbus, Ohio 43210

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