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Kidney cancer

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Symptoms of kidney cancer

Kidney cancer may not cause any signs or symptoms in its early stages. This is because the kidneys have few nerves, so tumours can grow without causing any pain or discomfort. The kidneys are also deep inside the body, which means that tumours have space to grow very large before they affect other organs. People often start to have symptoms once the tumour grows into surrounding tissues and organs.

Up to one-third of people with kidney tumours are diagnosed when they don’t have any signs or symptoms. In these cases, the kidney tumour is found on an ultrasound or x-ray done for another reason. Because kidney tumours don’t cause symptoms until they are large, most people with kidney cancer have advanced disease when it is diagnosed.

Other health conditions can cause the same symptoms as kidney cancer. See your doctor if you have these symptoms:

  • blood in the urine (called hematuria)
  • pain in the back and side of the abdomen, or flank
  • a lump that can be felt in the abdomen
  • swelling (called edema) of the legs and ankles
  • a large swollen vein (called a varicocele) may appear suddenly in an older man’s scrotum if a kidney tumour changes the flow of blood to the scrotum
  • paraneoplastic syndromeparaneoplastic syndromeA group of symptoms that occurs when substances released by cancer cells disrupt the normal function of nearby or distant organs or tissues.

Symptoms of paraneoplastic syndrome include:

  • high blood pressure (called hypertension)
  • fatigue, paleness and a general feeling of discomfort or illness (called malaise) caused by a low red blood cell count (called anemia)
  • night sweats
  • weight loss
  • loss of appetite
  • fever


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