Step 2: Find a specialist for an accurate diagnosis.
The most important step is to make sure you have an accurate diagnosis. The exact type, stage, and grade of your tumor will directly affect your treatment plan. And making decisions about treatment without having the most accurate information now could affect decisions you have to make down the road and whether you will be eligible to participate in clinical trials.
About 50% of kidney tumors are found during a CT scan or X-ray and the diagnosis is made by a primary care doctor. You need to find a kidney cancer specialist or team of specialists to give you an accurate diagnosis and/or a second opinion in order to understand all your treatment options, now and in the future.
What is a kidney cancer specialist?
A kidney cancer specialist might be a urologist, which is a doctor with special training in diagnosing and treating diseases of the urinary organs. It could also be a urologic oncologist or a genitourinary (GU) medical oncologist. These are doctors who specialize in diagnosing and treating cancers of the urinary tract with surgery and/or drug treatments. A kidney cancer specialist has had special training and regularly diagnoses and treats kidney cancer.
When you are looking for a specialist, be sure to ask how many patients with kidney cancer they diagnose and treat each year. A specialist who sees hundreds of kidney cancer patients per year will have more expertise and experience than a doctor who only sees 10 kidney cancer patients a year.
“Generally, on average 25% of cancers are misdiagnosed every year. In my 15 years of working with people living with cancer, I have seen first hand how much this affects patients and their families. That is why it is critical to see a kidney cancer specialist to ensure you have the most accurate diagnosis possible.“
– Gretchen E. Vaughan, President and CEO
How do I find a kidney cancer specialist?
The KCA recommends finding a specialist at a National Cancer Institute (NCI) Designated Cancer Center. These centers employ experts diagnosing, treating, and researching cancer, including kidney cancer.
The kidney cancer specialist can work with your local doctor to oversee your treatment plan. They collaborate with one another to ensure you are getting the best care possible.
There are 64 NCI-Designated Cancer Centers across the country that treat people living with cancer.
Click here to find the center nearest you.
When you find the closest NCI-Designated Cancer Center, search their website for doctors who diagnose and treat kidney cancer. You may have to travel to find a kidney cancer specialist and still be able to receive treatment at a hospital closer to you. Your local doctor can also partner with a specialist to review your test results to make treatment recommendations.
Contact the KCA’s Patient Liaison to help locate a kidney cancer specialist near you. Call 1-800-544-3KCA (1-800-544-3522) or email [email protected]
Testing for a kidney cancer diagnosis
There are a variety of tests that are available to determine the extent of your kidney cancer and to help develop your treatment plan. You may have already undergone these tests at your local doctor when you received your initial diagnosis but some or all of the tests will be redone with a kidney cancer specialist.
Blood tests to check your kidney function and overall health.
A physical examination is done to check your overall health. This could include checking your vital signs like blood pressure, temperature, weight, and pulse. A complete medical and family history will also be taken.
Urinalysis to collect and treat urine to look for blood or infection in the urine.
A chest x-ray is done to see if the cancer has spread to the lungs. If something shows up on the x-ray, then your doctor may order a CT scan of the chest for a better look.
Computed Tomography (CT) Scan
Computed tomography (CT) scan is a special x-ray that shows a cross-section of specific areas of the body. Before your scan, you may be given A dye or other substance put into the body to make clearer pictures during imaging tests.contrast, to improve the quality of the pictures taken. Be sure to tell your doctor if you have had any reaction to contrast or iodine in the past. Your abdomen and pelvis will be scanned to examine your kidneys and your chest to see if the cancer has spread to your lungs.
Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI)
An MRI is a special scan that uses radio waves and powerful magnets to take pictures of the body. An MRI is used to check if kidney cancer has spread to major blood vessels and/or the brain. An MRI also requires a person to lie still in an enclosed space for a significant amount of time, which may be difficult and cause anxiety. Please be sure to notify your doctor in advance if you are claustrophobic or are anxious about being in an enclosed space so you can discuss options. If you have metal in your body, such as a hip replacement or pacemaker, let your doctor know.
Bone scan is an imaging test that can show if the cancer has spread to your bones and is usually only done if you have certain symptoms such as bone pain or high levels of Alkaline phsophatase (ALP) refers to an enzyme in a person's blood that helps break down proteins.alkaline phosphatase (ALP) in your blood. It is done by injecting small amounts of special radioactive material through a vein into your bloodstream. It will take about 3 hours for the material to enter your blood and then a special camera takes pictures of the material in your bones.
A A procedure that removes fluid or tissue samples to be tested for a disease.biopsy may or may not be done as part of your diagnostic tests. It is more commonly done with a medical oncology doctor than with a surgeon. During a biopsy, a sample of tissue is removed from the tumor and examined to see whether it is cancerous. A A doctor that specializes in diagnosing diseases using medical imaging such as CT or MRI.radiologist will do the biopsy by inserting a long thin needle through the skin into the tumor and remove a small sample. A A doctor who is an expert in testing cells and tissue to find disease.pathologist will look at the tissue under a microscope to see what the cells look like and make a diagnosis. If The spread of cancer from the place it formed to another part of the body.metastasis is present, a biopsy may be taken from another area of the body instead of the kidney.