Kidney Cancer

How is kidney cancer treated?

Specific treatment for kidney cancer will be determined by your doctor based on:

  • Your age, overall health, and medical history
  • Extent of the disease
  • Your tolerance for specific medications, procedures, or therapies
  • Expectations for the course of the disease
  • Your opinion or preference

Treatment may include:

  • Surgery. Surgery to remove the kidney is called a nephrectomy and it is the most common treatment for kidney cancer. The following are different types of nephrectomy procedures:

    • Radical nephrectomy. The whole kidney is removed along with the adrenal gland, tissue around the kidney, and, sometimes, lymph nodes in the area.

    • Simple nephrectomy. Only the kidney is removed.

    • Partial nephrectomy. Only the part of the kidney that contains the tumor is removed.

    The remaining kidney is generally able to perform the work of both kidneys.

  • Radiation therapy. Radiation therapy uses high-energy X-rays to kill cancer cells, and is also sometimes used to relieve pain when kidney cancer has spread to the bone.

  • Targeted therapy. Targeted therapy uses drugs that attack specific parts of cancer cells. These drugs work differently from standard chemotherapy drugs, and often have less severe side effects. They are commonly the first line of treatment for advanced kidney cancer. Examples include sunitinib (Sutent), sorafenib (Nexavar), temsirolimus (Torisel), everolimus (Afinitor), bevacizumab (Avastin) and pazopanib (Votrient).

  • Biological therapy (also called immunotherapy). Biological therapy is a treatment that uses the body's own immune system to fight cancer.

  • Chemotherapy. Chemotherapy is the use of drugs to kill cancer cells. Unfortunately, kidney cancer is often resistant to chemotherapy drugs.

  • Arterial embolization. Arterial embolization is a procedure in which small pieces of a special gelatin sponge, or other material, are injected through a catheter to clog the main renal blood vessel. This procedure shrinks the tumor by depriving it of the oxygen-carrying blood and other substances it needs to grow. It may also be used before an operation to make surgery easier, or to provide relief from pain when removal of the tumor is not possible.

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