Kidney Cancer: Tests After Diagnosis
What tests might I have after being diagnosed?
After a diagnosis of kidney cancer, you'll likely need other tests. These help your
healthcare providers learn more about your overall health and the cancer. They can
help show if the cancer has grown into nearby areas or spread to other parts of your
body. The test results help your healthcare providers decide the best ways to treat
the cancer. If you have any questions about these or other tests, be sure to talk
with your healthcare team.
The tests you have may include:
A chest X-ray is done to look for changes in your lungs. These might be a sign that
the kidney cancer has spread to your lungs or chest. An X-ray uses a small amount
of radiation to make an image of organs and bones inside your body. It can show enlarged
lymph nodes in your chest.
Ultrasound uses sound waves to create images of your insides. For this test, a gel
is put on your belly and a small wand called a transducer is pressed on your skin
to look at your abdominal organs (those inside your belly). The transducer gives off
sound waves and picks up the echoes as they bounce off the tissues. A computer makes
these echoes into images. This test can be used to help figure out if the cancer has
spread from your kidneys to other organs, such as the liver.
Positron emission tomography (PET) scan
A PET scan can look at your entire body. For this test, you either swallow a mildly
radioactive form of sugar (glucose) or it's put into your blood through a vein. The
PET scan will show where in your body the glucose is being used the most. This helps
find active cells that are dividing quickly, like cancer cells. You’ll lie still on
a narrow table that slowly slides through the ring-shaped PET scanner. Other than
the injection, a PET scan is painless.
This test may be done if your healthcare provider thinks the cancer might have spread
to your bones. A small amount of a radioactive substance is put into a vein in your
hand or arm. It travels through your blood and collects in bones where there is damage.
Then the scan is done to show these areas. The damage may be from cancer or other
things, like arthritis. More testing may be needed to find the exact cause of the
This is a type of X-ray that uses a dye to get pictures of the blood vessels that
are taking blood to the kidney tumor. The dye is put into the artery that leads into
your kidney. X-rays are then taken to map the flow of the dye. This test helps healthcare
providers plan surgery to take out the tumor. It's often done as part of a CT or MRI
A CT scan uses a series of X-rays and a computer to make detailed 3-D pictures of
the inside of your body. You may need to drink a contrast dye or it may be put into
your blood through a vein. The dye helps show more details.
Some newer machines can do PET and CT scans at the same time. This allows areas that
show up on the PET scan to be compared with the more detailed image of the CT scan.
An MRI uses large magnets, radio waves, and a computer to make detailed pictures of
the inside of your body. Contrast dye may be put into a vein to help show details
clearly. MRI might be done if you can't have a CT scan. It's also very good at showing
whether the cancer has grown into major blood vessels, the brain, or spinal cord.
Working with your healthcare provider
Your healthcare provider will talk with you about which tests you'll have. Make sure
to prepare for the tests as instructed. Ask questions and talk about any concerns