Diagnosing medical conditions accurately enables a patient to have effective treatment. However, in some cases, doctors face challenges when trying to distinguish between kidney cancer and kidney stones.
When doctors fail to diagnose kidney cancer, or any type of cancer, within a timely manner, it raises the chances of the cancer metastasizing to other parts of the body.
Kidney cancer and kidney stones often produce similar symptoms. Both conditions can cause lower back pain, blood in the urine and frequent urination. This overlap in symptoms can lead doctors to initially consider kidney stones as the more likely diagnosis.
Lack of routine screening tests
Unlike some cancers, kidney cancer does not have routine screening tests for early detection. Kidney stones, on the other hand, are identifiable through imaging studies such as CT scans or ultrasounds. This lack of specific screening tools for kidney cancer makes it challenging to identify the disease at an early, more treatable stage.
Many physicians rely on imaging studies to assess kidney-related issues. However, both kidney stones and kidney tumors can appear as masses on these scans. It can be challenging to differentiate between the two, leading to misdiagnosis.
Underestimation of risk factors
Some doctors may also underestimate the risk factors for kidney cancer, such as a family history of the disease, smoking or exposure to certain chemicals. Failing to consider these risk factors may play a role in misdiagnosis.
Per a study chronicled in Medical News Today, about 45% of patients with kidney cancer initially had their doctors misdiagnose them with something else, so it is important that patients understand the risk of misdiagnosis and advocate for their health.