Causes and Diagnoses

Causes and Diagnoses of Urologic Cancer

The exact cause of urologic cancers is unknown, but certain factors can increase your risk of developing these types of cancer. Risk factors include:
  • A family history of urologic cancer
  • Advanced age
  • Smoking 
  • Obesity 
  • Von Hippel-Lindau disease or a family history of Von Hippel-Lindau disease


If you have symptoms of kidney, bladder or urethral cancer, your physician will assess your medical history and perform a physical exam that may include a vaginal or rectal exam. Additional diagnostic tests and procedures to confirm the diagnosis and determine the stage of the disease may be used, including:

  • Urine cytology: This laboratory test uses a microscope to look for abnormal cells in the urine.
  • Ultrasound: Using high-frequency sound waves to create an image of the internal organs, including the liver, pancreas, spleen and kidneys and to assess blood flow through various vessels. The ultrasound may be done using an external or internal device.
  • Intravenous pyelogram (IVP): Special dye is injected into one of your veins and X-rays are taken as the dye passes through your urinary tract, allowing your physician to see tumors, kidney stones, blocked areas as well as blood flow through the kidneys.
  • Angiography: Similar to an IVP, angiography involves injecting the dye directly into an artery that goes to your kidney to determine which blood vessels are sending blood to tumors. This will determine whether or not the tumor can be removed surgically.
  • Computed tomography scan (CT scan): This diagnostic imaging procedure uses a combination of X-rays and computer technology to produce horizontal, or axial, images (often called slices) of the body. CT scans are more detailed than general X-rays.
  • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI): Using a combination of large magnets, radiofrequencies and a computer, an MRI produces detailed images of organs and structures within the body.
  • Biopsy: To confirm a diagnosis of cancer, tissue or cells from the affected area must be examined by a pathologist. During a biopsy, a sample of tissue is removed with a thin hollow needle for examination under a microscope.
  • Special blood tests: Blood tests can show whether any jaundice is due to a blockage in the kidney's bile duct or to another cause, such as liver disease.