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NCCN Guidelines for Patients



Kidney Cancer, Version 1.2017



General health tests | Imaging tests

Many kidney cancers are found by chance

during imaging tests given for other health

problems. Other times, testing is started

when a person has signs or symptoms of

kidney cancer. Part 2 describes the tests

that are recommended when kidney cancer

is first suspected or found. These tests are

used to find and confirm (diagnose) kidney

cancer and help plan treatment. This

information will help you use the Treatment

guide in Part 5. It may also help you know

what to expect during testing.

General health tests

Medical history

Before and after cancer treatment, your doctor will

assess your medical history. Your medical history

includes any health events in your life and any

medications you’ve taken. Your doctor will ask

about any symptoms and health conditions that you

have had. This information may affect which cancer

treatment is best for you. It may help to make a list

of old and new medications while at home to bring to

your doctor’s office.

Family history

Some health conditions can run in families. So, your

doctor may ask about the medical history of your

blood relatives. It’s important to know who in your

family has had what diseases. It’s also important

to know at what ages the diseases started. This

information is called a family history.

Kidney cancer often occurs for unknown reasons.

But, some people have genetic health conditions that

increase the risk for kidney cancer. Genetic means

that it is passed down from parent to child through

genes. One example is VHL (







disease, also called VHL syndrome. This disease is

caused by an abnormal change (mutation) in the


gene. People with VHL disease have a higher chance

of getting kidney cancer and other types of cancer.

Physical exam

Doctors usually perform a physical exam along with

taking a medical history. A physical exam is a review

of your body for signs of disease such as infection

and areas of unusual bleeding or bruising.

During this exam, your doctor may listen to your

lungs, heart, and intestines. Your doctor may also

feel parts of your body to see if organs are of normal

size, are soft or hard, or cause pain when touched.

Your kidneys sit deep inside your abdomen and

normally can’t be felt during a physical exam. But,

your doctor may be able to feel a kidney that is

enlarged or has a large tumor.

Imaging tests

Imaging tests take pictures (images) of the inside

of your body. Imaging tests are used to find and

confirm (diagnose) kidney cancer. They are also

used to assess the extent of the cancer to help plan


Imaging tests are often easy to undergo. Before the

test, you may be asked to stop eating or drinking for

several hours. You should also remove any metal

objects that are on your body. Often there are no side


CT scan

A CT (




omography) scan uses x-rays to

take pictures of the inside of the body. It takes many

x-rays of the same body part from different angles.