Further tests for kidney cancer
This page tells you about the further tests you may have if you have been diagnosed with kidney cancer. There is information about
Further tests for kidney cancer
If your tests show that you have kidney cancer, you may need to have further tests. These show whether the cancer has spread and help your doctors to decide on the best treatment.
The tests you might have include
- A chest X-ray
- CT scan
- MRI scan
- Bone scan
- Taking a sample (biopsy) of the tumour
- An angiogram or venogram to look at the blood vessels in and around your kidneys
After the tests
Your doctor will ask you to go back to the hospital when your test results have come through. This is bound to take a little time, even if only a few days. You may feel very anxious during this time. It may help to talk to a close friend or relative about how you feel. Or you may want to contact a cancer support group to talk to someone who has been through a similar experience. You can join Cancer Chat (Cancer Research UK's online forum) to talk to other people affected by cancer.
You can view and print the quick guides for all the pages in the Diagnosing kidney cancer section.
If your tests show that you have kidney cancer, you may need to have further tests. These show whether the cancer has spread and they help your doctors to decide on the best treatment. You may have one or more of the following tests.
Your doctor may ask you to have a chest X-ray to check your general health and to make sure you are fit enough to have particular treatments or surgery. It will also see whether any cancer cells have spread to the lungs.
You may be asked to have a CT scan (or CAT scan as it is sometimes called). This stands for Computerised (Axial) Tomography. This is a scan that takes a series of pictures of a part of your body and uses a computer to put them together. The CT scan can check the size and extent of the cancer in your kidney. It can also check for any spread of the cancer to other parts of your abdomen, your other kidney, or your lungs. There is information about having a CT scan in the cancer tests section.
MRI stands for Magnetic Resonance Imaging. This type of scan uses magnetic fields to build up a picture of the inside of the body. An MRI scan can be done to check the size and extent of the cancer in the kidney. It can also check for any cancer spread. There is more about having an MRI scan in the cancer tests section.
Your doctor might ask you to have a bone scan to check whether any cancer has spread to the bones. This is uncommon with kidney cancer, but it can happen. The scan takes quite a while. You have an injection and then wait for a couple of hours before having the scan. There is information about having a bone scan in the cancer tests section.
If your doctors cannot tell from other tests whether the tumour in the kidney is a cancer they may take a small piece of tissue (biopsy) from the tumour. They may also take a biopsy if you have kidney cancer that has spread.
Your kidneys are just under the ribcage, towards the side and back of your upper abdomen. So, you lie on your front on a couch or bed to have the biopsy. The doctor cleans the skin over the kidney with antiseptic. They then inject local anaesthetic into the area to make it numb. It may sting a little at first.
The doctor pushes a hollow needle through the skin and muscle into the kidney tissue. They take a small sample of tissue. You may feel some pressure at this time. You need to hold your breath for 5 to 10 seconds when the needle is pushed in and out. This is because the kidneys move slightly when you breathe in and out. Your doctor will tell you exactly when you need to hold your breath. During the biopsy the doctor will use an ultrasound scanner or CT scan to help them see exactly where the tumour is.
After the biopsy you need to lie on a bed for several hours to make sure you have no bleeding. You might want to take in a book, electronic tablet or a music player for entertainment. You may need to stay in hospital overnight. But if you have the biopsy early in the morning, you may be able to go home later in the day.
The biopsy area may be sore and uncomfortable for a while and your nurse will give you mild painkillers. The result of the biopsy may take a week or so to come back.
Angiography and venography mean looking at blood vessels and blood flow. This is very important for planning surgery. Your surgeon may need to find out how close your tumour is to a major blood vessel in the kidney, for example. An angiogram or venogram outlines the blood vessels in and around the kidneys. It shows up any vessels that are being pushed out of place by a tumour. It can also show if there are any abnormal vessels growing on or near the tumour or if the kidney cancer has grown through the walls of any blood vessels.
You have this examination in the X-ray department. You change into a hospital gown and lie down on an X-ray table. Your doctor puts a thin tube called a catheter into a blood vessel in your groin. They gently push the tube up into the blood vessels in the kidney area.They then inject a dye into the tube that shows up the blood vessels on an X-ray. You may need to have a groin shave where the tube (catheter) will go in. After the X-rays have been taken, the tube can come out and a nurse will press on the wound site until there is no sign of bleeding.
You might still have an angiogram in this way. But these days, it is more common to use a CT scanner or an MRI scanner to show the blood vessels during the test. This is called CT angiography or MR angiography. You don't have to have any tubes put in for these tests, although you might have an injection of a dye into a vein in your arm or hand. The dye helps the blood vessels to show up more clearly on the scan.
Your doctor will ask you to go back to the hospital when your test results have come through. This is bound to take a little time, even if only a few days. You may feel very anxious during this time.
While you are waiting for results it may help to talk to a close friend or relative about how you feel. Or you may want to contact a cancer support group to talk to someone who has been through a similar experience. Look at the cancer organisations page to find organisations that can give you information and support.
If you want to find people to share experiences with online, you could use Cancer Chat, our online forum.
Rated 4 out of 5 based on 5 votes
Question about cancer? Contact our information nurse team