In the later stages, renal cell carcinoma can cause symptoms such as blood in urine and lower back pain. You may not have symptoms in the early stages.

Renal cell carcinoma (RCC) is the most common type of kidney cancer, accounting for 80–85% of kidney cancer diagnoses.

If you have RCC, you’re not likely to experience symptoms until the later stages when the tumors have grown larger.

Many people diagnosed with RCC receive their diagnosis after being examined for another reason. A tumor may show on an ultrasound or a CT scan before a person experiences any symptoms.

When kidney tumors cause symptoms, they are typically symptoms that also occur with other health conditions, such as bladder infections or kidney stones.

If you experience any symptoms of RCC, it’s still best to talk with a doctor. Keep reading to learn symptoms that may indicate RCC.

A tumor caused by RCC can cause you to have blood in your urine, known as hematuria. The blood may be visible, giving your urine a pink tint. It may also be a microscopic amount, only visible by examining a urine sample under a microscope or performing a test to detect small amounts of blood.

A tumor in one or both kidneys that has grown to a significant size can cause pain. If you have pain that starts in your kidney, you may feel pain in your lower back and to the side, just below the rib cage.

Pain caused by a tumor is steady and won’t go away, whereas pain from a strained muscle may change or lessen with movement. If you have pain from an injury, it’s unlikely to be related to a kidney tumor.

If a kidney tumor caused by RCC has grown very large, it may produce a noticeable lump that extends outward from your body or can be felt. The lump is usually low in your abdomen, either on your back, under your rib cage, or on your side. To produce such a lump, the tumor has to be fairly large.

Anemia, or having low levels of red blood cells, can occur with many health conditions, including RCC. Your red blood cells carry oxygen, so having less of them than necessary may make you feel tired, sluggish, and run down.

Having a tumor in your kidney may cause you to feel fatigued. This can happen due to anemia, or it could result from the cancer cells competing with healthy cells for nutrients.

Fatigue can also result from illness or poor sleep, but if you feel unusually tired for a long period of time and you can’t explain it, consider contacting a doctor.

RCC may cause you to have a fever, which is a temperature of 99 to 99.5°F (37.2 to 37.5°C) or higher. A fever can occur when your immune system fights an infection, such as a virus. If you have a fever and no other symptoms of an infection, or if the fever doesn’t get better after an illness, it is worth talking with a doctor.

Unexplained weight loss is a possible symptom of RCC and some other health conditions. If you’re not dieting, or your weight loss is accompanied by fatigue and fever, you should consider making an appointment with a doctor for a diagnosis. Cancer cells in the kidney can out-compete your healthy cells for nutrients, leading to unintentional weight loss.

RCC can cause high levels of calcium in your blood. Higher-than-typical levels can cause:

  • fatigue
  • weakness
  • excessive thirst
  • constipation
  • confusion and memory issues

A doctor can test your calcium levels with a blood test known as a metabolic panel.

What is the life expectancy of someone with renal cell carcinoma?

The life expectancy of people with RCC can depend on the cancer stage at diagnosis, as well as personal factors like age and overall health. The 5-year survival rate for kidney cancers, based on data from 2013–2019, is 78%.

What is the first presenting symptom of renal cell carcinoma?

Many people with RCC do not have symptoms. Some people may have flank pain, flank mass, and blood in urine at diagnosis.

How is renal cell cancer diagnosed?

Doctors can diagnose renal cell cancer after blood and urine tests and imaging tests. Unlike with other types of cancer, a biopsy is not always needed for diagnosis.

If you experience any of the symptoms that are common with later-stage RCC, know that symptoms can be due to a wide range of conditions, many of which aren’t serious. If your symptoms do not go away, are bothersome, or worry you, it’s best to make an appointment with a doctor so you can find out what’s causing them.

You may be more likely to get RCC if you have:

If you do have RCC, treatment options can include surgery, medical procedures, medications, or some combination of them. The earlier you receive a diagnosis, the greater the chance that treatment will be successful.