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Kidney Cancer Symptoms and Diagnosis

Kidney cancer often has no symptoms or can be vague. Some symptoms can be put down to other problems like low back pain, chronic urine infections, chronic fatigue or just being stressed or run down.


Important information about the symptoms of kidney cancer


How doctors diagnose kidney cancer

Staging and Grading

How doctors define the stage and grade of kidney cancer

Typical symptoms include blood in urine, pain in the back or side, and fatigue.

Visit your GP if you are experiencing these symptoms.

Kidney Cancer can be symptomless

Kidney Cancer often has no symptoms and is often detected during tests for other medical conditions. More than half of adult kidney tumours are detected when using an ultrasound scan to investigate symptoms, such as: high blood pressure, muscle wasting and weight loss, high temperature or fever, disorders affecting the nerves and muscles, inflammation, anaemia, abnormal liver function tests, and high levels of calcium in the blood (hypercalcaemia).

Symptoms can be vague

Some of the symptoms of kidney cancer can be vague and can be put down to other problems like low back pain, chronic urine infections, chronic fatigue or just being stressed or run down.

    Typical symptoms

    Blood in the urine.
    An important symptom that must be investigated is blood in the urine. Doctors call this haematuria. This may come and go and not everyone with kidney cancer will have haematuria. Sometimes you won’t be able to see it, so any change in the colour of your urine should be checked out. Urine tests can pick up minute levels of blood in the urine. It’s important to remember that most people with blood in their urine do not have kidney cancer which is why testing for blood in the urine isn’t a reliable screening test for kidney cancer. Blood in the urine is more likely a sign of an infection, kidney stones, prostate problems or sometimes bladder cancer. So, while it is unlikely to be a sign of cancer, you should see your GP for further tests to rule out cancer and other serious causes.

    Pain in side
    Mass in the kidney area. Most kidney cancers are too small to feel, but if you feel a lump or mass in the area of your kidneys you should tell your doctor straight away.

    Low back pain or flank pain
    Back pain is very common and itself isn’t always a sign of kidney cancer, but some people do report this and it’s always good to get it checked out by your GP. Flank pain is in your side between your ribs and hipbone (sometimes called the loin area). This can be down to lots of other reasons but it’s advisable to tell your doctor if you have this.

    Other symptoms
    Sometimes abnormal red blood cell counts and high blood pressure (hypertension) can be symptoms of kidney cancer. Some patients experience a condition called polycythaemia, or thickening of the blood, which can also be a symptom of kidney cancer. Symptoms of polycythaemia are a bad headache and redness of the skin.

    Other symptoms are more general and can also be caused by many other conditions, such as: weight loss, tiredness and running a persistent temperature and sweating heavily, especially at night.

    In about a third of patients, the kidney cancer will have already spread to other organs, such as the lungs, liver, brain and bones. These patients may experience symptoms of advanced kidney cancer, such as: a persistent cough, coughing-up blood (or haemoptysis), abnormal liver function tests, headaches and visual disturbances, or bone pain. You must see your doctor if you have any of these symptoms.

    Typical signs and symptoms of kidney cancer

    • Blood in the urine, also called haematuria
    • Persistent low back pain or pain in the side between the ribs and hipbonesigns of kidney cancer
    • A lump or mass in the area of the kidneys
    • Abnormal red blood cell counts
    • High blood pressure or hypertension
    • Thickening of the blood (polycythaemia)
    • Tiredness
    • Weight loss and/or loss of appetite
    • Running a persistent temperature and sweating heavily, especially at night

    Support Line


    0800 002 9002

    Kidney Cancer Information

    Whether you are recently diagnosed, undergoing or completed treatment for kidney cancer, are a carer, a friend or family of a kidney cancer patient, Kidney Cancer UK is here for you .

    For further support call our Support Line to talk to a member of our Health team on 0800 002 9002.