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Kidney CancerKidney Cancer Stages

Let's Talk About Kidney Cancer Stages

Knowing how far your condition has progressed will help you better understand your path to treatment. Learn what’s happening in your body and what that means for living with this disease.

    Our Pro PanelKidney Cancer Stages

    We went to some of the nation's top experts in cancer to bring you the most up-to-date information possible.

    Ithaar Derweesh, M.D. headshot.

    Ithaar Derweesh, M.D.Urologic Oncologist

    UC San Diego Health
    San Diego, CA
    John Leppert, M.D. headshot.

    John Leppert, M.D.Director of Urologic Oncology

    Palo Alto Veterans Affairs Health Care System
    Palo Alto, CA
    Phillip Pierorazio, M.D.

    Phillip Pierorazio, M.D.Director, Division of Testis Cancer, Urologist

    Johns Hopkins University
    Baltimore, MD

    Frequently Asked QuestionsKidney Cancer Stages

    How is your kidney cancer stage determined?

    Your medical team will typically perform a CT scan of the abdomen to determine the size and location of a tumor, or they’ll use an MRI if they suspect the tumor has spread to a major vein, if you have an allergy to dye used in a CT scan, or if you have impaired kidney function. They may run further imaging tests, including a chest x-ray or CT scan, and depending on your symptoms, a bone scan, a CT scan or MRI of the brain, or imaging of other parts of the body.

    What do staging numbers and letters mean?

    Kidney cancers are grouped in stages 1 through 4 depending on the size of the tumor and how far it’s spread. You might also see the letters “T” “N” and “M” to describe the spread of cancer. “T” stands for tumor, and will be accompanied by the stage of cancer, T1 to T4. “N” means nearby lymph nodes. “M” stands for metastasis, which means the cancer has spread beyond the kidney. M0 means the cancer hasn’t spread to other parts of the body, M1 means it has.

    Why is knowing the stage of cancer important?

    Doctors use this information to decide what treatments are best and give you a better sense of your recovery chances. For instance, stage 1 or 2 might involve surgery, while stage 4 is more likely to be treated with drug therapy.

    How long can you live with kidney cancer?

    Every person’s cancer and their response to treatment is different. But on average, 75% of people at all stages of kidney cancer live for at least five years after their diagnosis, based on the most recent data available.

    Lexi Krupp

    Lexi Krupp

    Lexi Krupp is a journalist who covers health and science stories for audio and print.