The most common symptom is blood in the urine. Doctors call this haematuria. It may come and go and not every kidney cancer sufferer will have haematuria. Sometimes you won’t be able to see it, but it can still be detected by a urine test. Most people with blood in their urine do not have kidney cancer. It can be a sign of an infection, kidney stones, prostate problems or bladder cancer. However, it should always be investigated to find out what has caused it.
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. You should also see your doctor about any persistent low back pain or pain in your side between your ribs and hipbone (sometimes called the flank or loin). The sooner kidney cancer is detected, the easier it is to treat.
In the early stages of kidney cancer there may be no obvious symptoms. Many kidney cancers are found simply by chance when someone is being given a scan for another reason. 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 or high levels of calcium in the blood (hypercalcaemia).
Sometimes abnormal red blood cell counts and high blood pressure, or 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.
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.
There are other symptoms, which can be 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.
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 hipbone
- 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)
- Weight loss and/or loss of appetite
- Running a persistent temperature and sweating heavily, especially at night