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
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.
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.
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 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
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.