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Symptoms of kidney cancer

Men and women discussing kidney cancer

This page is about the symptoms of kidney cancer. You can find information about

 

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Symptoms of kidney cancer

When kidney cancer first starts to develop, there are often no obvious symptoms. But increasingly, kidney cancers are being picked up on ultrasound scans done for other medical reasons. So they are being found at an earlier stage. Once the cancer begins to grow, the symptoms can become more obvious.

Blood in the urine

This is the most common symptom of kidney cancer. Doctors call this haematuria. About half of the people diagnosed with kidney cancer will have this symptom when they first go to the doctor.

Sometimes the blood cannot be seen by the naked eye but can be picked up by a simple urine test. If you ever see blood in your urine, you should go to the doctor. Most people who have blood in the urine do not have kidney cancer. In most cases it is caused by an infection, enlargement of the prostate, or kidney stones.

A lump

Most kidney cancers are too small to feel, but see your doctor straight away if you feel a lump or swelling in the area of your kidneys.

Other symptoms

Some people have other vague symptoms including tiredness, loss of appetite, weight loss, a high temperature with very heavy sweating, a pain in the side that won’t go away, or a general feeling of poor health. Remember that all these symptoms can be caused by many other conditions that are not cancer.

 

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Blood in the urine

This is the most common symptom of kidney cancer. Doctors call this haematuria. About half of the people diagnosed with kidney cancer will have this symptom when they first go to the doctor.

The blood does not have to be there all the time. It can come and go. Sometimes, the blood cannot be seen by the naked eye but can be picked up by a simple urine test. If you ever see blood in your urine, you should go to the doctor.

Remember that most people who go to the doctor with blood in their urine don't have kidney cancer. In most cases, blood in the urine is caused by an infection, enlargement of the prostate, or kidney stones. Even so, a doctor should always investigate blood in the urine. As the bleeding can come and go, both the doctor and patient may get the impression that the problem has gone away. This can mean that an early, treatable cancer in the kidney or bladder is allowed to grow to a stage where it may be more difficult to treat.

 

A lump or mass in the kidney area

If you feel a lump or swelling in the area of your kidneys, you need to go straight to your doctor. Most kidney cancers are too small for you or a doctor to feel. But it is possible to do an ultrasound scan of the kidneys to check for cancer. There is information about scans in the diagnosing kidney cancer section.

 

Other more vague symptoms

Some people can have other symptoms, which can be vague. These are

  • Tiredness
  • Loss of appetite
  • Weight loss
  • A high temperature and very heavy sweating
  • A pain in the side (below the ribs) that won’t go away
  • A general feeling of poor health

A high temperature and sweats can be caused by an infection, and your doctor may want to rule this out first.

High blood pressure and having fewer red blood cells than normal (anaemia) can also be symptoms of kidney cancer. These symptoms are related to the hormones that the kidneys produce.

If you have any of the symptoms discussed in this section, go to your doctor for a check up. Remember that these symptoms can be caused by many other conditions. Most people with these symptoms will not have cancer. But if it is cancer, then the sooner it is diagnosed the easier it will be to treat.

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Updated: 6 January 2014