Different types of treatment are available for patients with kidney cancer. Some treatments are standard (the currently used treatment), and some are being tested in clinical trials. (A treatment clinical trial is a research study meant to help improve current treatments or obtain information on new treatments for patients with cancer)

Your treatment options depend on the stage of cancer, your overall health and your preferences about treatment. In metastatic disease, the location and extent of the cancer is also an important consideration.

You do not have to rush to make a decision, so consider the options carefully. Research shows that cancer survivors of all educational levels and backgrounds can have a hard time communicating with their health care team. One of the best ways to improve communication with your health care team is to prepare your visits so that you can best make use of the time.

A treatment plan is a way to deal with both the short and long term goals of managing your kidney cancer. There are several treatment options for kidney cancer, depending on the cancer stage and the patient’s age and general health. Patients have time for second opinions and to talk through all of their options with their doctors and develop a treatment plan that best fits their needs.

Standard Treatments for Kidney (Renal) Cancer

For most people with kidney cancer, this is the first treatment. An operation to remove the kidney is called a nephrectomy. Your doctor might do a radical nephrectomy, removing the entire kidney, adrenal gland and tissue around the kidney. Other options are a simple nephrecotomy, removal of just the kidney, or a partial nephrectomy, removal of the part of the kidney that contains the tumor.

Arterial Embolization 
This type of therapy shrinks the tumor. It is done before an operation to make surgery easier or when surgery is performed to reduce pain and symptoms when surgery is not possible. A substance is injected into the blood vessel that supplies to the kidney. This blocks blood flow to the kidney, which prevents the tumor from getting oxygen and other substances it needs to grow.

One or more special needles are inserted through skin into the tumor. Gas creates extreme cold and causes cells to freeze. Doctors freeze all cancer tissue and some of the surrounding healthy tissue. Another gas thaws the frozen tissue, and the doctor repeats this process, which causes cancer cells to die. This process is used when tumors can not be removed by surgery.

Radiation Therapy 
A large machine directs radiation at the body and uses high-energy rays to kill cancer cells. Some patients have radiation before surgery to shrink the tumor, and some have it after to kill any cancerous cells remaining in the area. Patients who can’t have surgery have radiation to relieve pain and other symptoms.

Biological Therapy
Also called immunotherapy, it uses the body’s immune system in fighting cancer. Biological therapy is sometimes used alone, and sometimes after surgery.

This treatment uses drugs to kill cancer cells. Although useful for many other cancers, these drugs have shown only limited use against kidney cancer. Doctors are studying new drugs and combinations that may be more beneficial.

Follow-up care after treatment for kidney cancer is important. Even when the cancer seems to be gone, it can return if cancer cells remain in the body after treatment. The doctor monitors the recovery of the person treated for kidney cancer and checks for recurrence through lab tests, chest x-rays, CT scans, and other tests.

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