Diagnosis & staging
These are tests that may be used to diagnose this type of cancer.
- Urine tests
- Blood tests
- X-ray examinations are used a lot
- IVP - Intravenous Pyelogram – also known as 'excretory urogram' – this is an X-ray mapping of the kidneys and area. A dye, called a contrast medium, is injected into the bloodstream and a series of x-rays are taken. As the dye moves through the kidneys, ureters and bladder, the x-rays provide a picture of any blockages, which shows where the tumour is located.
- Arteriogram – a dye is injected that enters the kidney through the arteries, enabling the biggest arteries to be seen. This test is rarely used today.
- CT scans
For more information on tests used to diagnose cancer, see our Recommended Websites, Diagnostic Tests
Types and Stages
- Renal cell carcinomas (also called adenocarcinomas) are the most common (85%) of all kidney cancers.
- The peak incidence is between age 50 - 70.
- Men are affected twice as much as women [see note, Statistics].
- Transitional cell carcinomas
- These tumours occur in the renal pelvis.
- They affect the kidney's collecting systems and behave like cancers of the bladder or ureter, so BC Cancer treats these cancer the same way we treat transitional cell carcinomas of the bladder.
- Constitutes 8% of kidney tumours.
- 50% of patients have invasion of underlying muscle at diagnosis.
- Usually affects people aged 60 - 80.
- Wilms' Tumour
- Found mostly in children.
- Accounts for 5% of all kidney cancers.
Staging describes the extent of a cancer. The TNM classification system is used as the standard around the world. In general a lower number in each category means a better prognosis. The stage of the cancer is used to plan the treatment.
T describes the site and size of the main tumour (primary)
N describes involvement of lymph nodes
M relates to whether the cancer has spread (presence or absence of distant metastases)
Limited to the kidney, smaller than 7 cm across. 5-year survival approx. 90%
Limited to the kidney, bigger than 7 cm across. 5-year survival approx. 80%
Invasion of blood vessels near the kidney, into one lymph node near the kidney, or into the renal fat surrounding the kidney. 5-year survival approx. 50%
Regional lymph node involvement or metastases. 5-year survival approx. 10-20%