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Are cysts on the kidneys serious?

Cysts on the kidney can be serious, depending on the degree of complexity. In serious cases, cancer might be involved.

Cysts on the kidneys are very common, and it’s important to have them properly evaluated for cancer.

Cysts in the kidneys are commonly detected using ultrasound, CT or MRI. Since 20 to 30 percent of adults can have kidney cysts, this is a common and important question to ask.

Kidney cysts can be classified as class 1, 2, 3 or 4. Radiologists and urologists have determined that the complexity of the cyst can be classified into one of the above categories, and then assigned a risk of it being cancer. Class 1 cysts are simple cysts with zero percent chance of cancer. Class 4 cysts are very complex appearing cysts with approximately 90 percent chance of cancer. Class 2 and 3 cysts lie somewhere in between, and urologic consultation is recommended to determine your cyst's complexity.

There are some people with genetic conditions such as adult polycystic kidney disease and others with the childhood onset variant, characterized by dozens of cysts in both kidneys, and also in the liver. These diseases are far more serious and warrant close medical attention.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.