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Kidney Cancer: Tests After Diagnosis

Kidney Cancer: Tests After Diagnosis

Once your health care provider knows you have kidney cancer, you may need tests. These help your health care provider learn more about your type of cancer and to see if it has spread. These help your health care provider create a treatment plan for you. The tests may include 1 or more of these:

  • Chest X-ray

  • Abdominal ultrasound

  • Positron emission tomography (PET) scan

  • Bone scan

  • Renal angiogram

Chest X-ray

A chest X-ray is done to see if there are any changes in your lungs. This may show 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 the body. The test can show enlarged lymph nodes in your chest. This test takes a few minutes, and causes no pain.

Abdominal ultrasound

Ultrasound uses sound waves to create images of internal organs. For this test, a gel is put on your belly and a small wand called a transducer is pressed on the skin to look at your abdominal organs. The transducer gives off sound waves and picks up the echoes as they bounce off the tissues. This test is used to help figure out if the cancer has spread from your kidneys to other organs, like the liver.

Positron emission tomography (PET) scan

A PET scan can look at your entire body. For this test, you either swallow or are injected with a mildly radioactive substance, usually a form of sugar (glucose). 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, such as cancer cells. You’ll lie still on a table that is pushed into the PET scanner. It will rotate around you and take pictures. Other than the injection, a PET scan is painless. Some people are sensitive to the substance, and may have nausea, a headache, or vomiting. Some newer machines can do PET and CT scans at the same time, so areas that show up on the PET scan can be compared with the more detailed image of the CT scan.

Bone scan

This test shows whether the cancer has spread to your bones. A small amount of a radioactive substance is injected into a vein. It travels through the blood vessels and collects in areas of the bones where there is damage. Then pictures are taken to show these areas. The damage may be from cancer or other conditions like arthritis, and more testing may be needed. 

Renal angiogram

This is a type of X-ray that uses a dye to get pictures of the blood vessels that are sending blood to the 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 health care providers plan surgery to take out the tumor. It can also be done as part of a CT or MRI scan.

Working with your health care provider

Your health care 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 you have.

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