Symptoms of Renal Cell Carcinoma

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Renal cell carcinoma is the most common form of kidney cancer. The kidneys are a pair of bean-shaped organs about the size of a fist that remove waste from the body through urine. They also filter blood and help regulate hormones. Cancerous tumors can grow in the kidneys, and symptoms like pain, fatigue, blood in the urine, and iron deficiency can occur.

This article will explore the signs, symptoms, and complications of renal cell carcinoma.

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Frequent Symptoms

Unfortunately, there may be no symptoms in the early stages of renal cell carcinoma. Tumors can grow without causing pain, and because they grow so deep inside the body, they may not be felt or seen during a regular exam.

Symptoms tend to appear only when the tumor grows significantly or metastasizes (spreads).

Some of the most common symptoms include:

Delayed Diagnosis

More than 50% of patients with renal cell carcinoma don't experience early symptoms and are only diagnosed incidentally during tests or imaging for other conditions.

Rare Symptoms

There are a few unusual and rare symptoms that some people with renal cell carcinoma will experience, including:

  • Enlargement of a testicle or the veins of the scrotum (varicocele) in boys and men
  • Vision problems
  • Increased blood pressure

Some of the these can be common symptoms of other conditions as well, so be clear and thorough when discussing your symptoms with a healthcare provider.

Complications

Certain complications of renal cell carcinoma can occur. The prognosis is better the earlier it is diagnosed to avoid further spread.

The most serious complications include:

  • Kidney failure, which can be fatal if not treated with dialysis (a treatment to remove waste products and excess fluid from the blood) or surgery
  • Growth and spread of the tumor, causing increased pain
  • Spread of the cancer to the lungs, liver, or bones

It's essential to follow the treatment plan developed by your medical team to ensure that serious complications do not occur.

When to See a Doctor

If you experience symptoms of renal cell carcinoma, make an appointment with your healthcare provider to discuss your symptoms.

Certain symptoms will require further testing with a urologist, a medical doctor specializing in diagnosing and treating diseases of the urinary tract.

Symptoms that may be a cause for concern include:

  • Unintentional weight loss or dramatic loss of appetite
  • Extreme fatigue
  • Unexplained abdominal swelling
  • Excessive blood in the urine
  • Changes in the size and shape of the testicles

A Word From Verywell

Certain symptoms of renal cell carcinoma can be frightening. In many cases, early symptoms won't appear, and diagnosis can be delayed. Watch your symptoms and contact a healthcare provider if they are causing concern. An early diagnosis presents a much better outlook for patients.

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6 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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  2. UpToDate. Clinical manifestations, evaluation, and staging of renal cell carcinoma. Updated August 2021.

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  5. National Organization for Rare Disorders. Renal cell carcinoma. Updated 2005.

  6. National Kidney Foundation. Kidney cancer.