Cancel
Nearby: Atlanta, GA 30308

Access Your Account

New to Healthgrades?

Join for free!

Or, sign in directly with Healthgrades:

Doctors and their Administrators:
Sign Up or Log In

Choosing the Best Kidney Cancer Treatment for You

By

Sarah Lewis, PharmD

Was this helpful? (7)
This content is selected and managed by the Healthgrades editorial staff and is brought to you by an advertising sponsor.
x

This content is created or selected by the Healthgrades editorial team and is funded by an advertising sponsor. The content is subject to the Healthgrades medical review process for accuracy, balance and objectivity. The content is not edited or otherwise influenced by the advertisers appearing on this page except with the possible suggestion of the broad topic area. For more information, read the HealthGrades advertising policy.

ADVERTISEMENT

Get the FREE "Fighting Cancer With Immunotherapy" email series.  You will receive six emails with EXCLUSIVE content on immunotherapy.

*

Which of the following conditions are you MOST interested in?

By clicking "Get Started" I agree to Healthgrade's privacy policy  and user agreement.
Doctor with hand on patients shoulder

Kidney cancer usually causes no symptoms, so doctors often discover it once a tumor is quite large. Sometimes, kidney cancer may even show up during a test for another condition. Fortunately, kidney cancer is still limited to the kidney at the time of diagnosis in most cases. That helps guide treatment.

Generally, doctors base treatment options on the cancer’s stage and grade and a person’s overall health. Here is a summary of the treatment options for kidney cancer.

Surgery or Tumor Destruction

Surgery removes all or part of the kidney. People can survive with only one kidney, but keeping as much of the affected kidney as possible helps preserve kidney function. This may prevent the need for dialysis in the future. There are many versions of this surgery, including both open and minimally invasive procedures. In some cases, doctors may recommend destroying the tumor without removing it. This is an ablation or embolization.

Three patients who have treated cancer with immunotherapy discuss their experiences.

2016 Healthgrades Operating Company, Inc. All rights reserved. May not be reproduced or reprinted without permission from Healthgrades Operating Company, Inc. Use of this information is governed by the Healthgrades User Agreement.

Surgery or tumor destruction is the main treatment for kidney cancer. It offers the best chance of cure and surviving without it is unlikely. The cancer’s stage and grade will guide the choice of procedure. If the tumor has not spread beyond the kidney, this may be the only treatment necessary. Surgery may still help people with kidney cancer that has spread. In this case, doctors usually follow it with immunotherapy.

Immunotherapy

Immunotherapy—or biologic therapy—uses a person’s own immune system to fight cancer. These medicines boost the immune system to help it find and kill cancer cells better. In most cases, immunotherapy comes as an IV (intravenous) medicine. 

Doctors most often use immunotherapy after surgery to treat kidney cancer that has spread beyond the kidney. It is also useful in people who can’t have surgery. Sometimes, it helps these people improve enough to tolerate surgery. Tumors will shrink to some degree in 20% of cases. 

Targeted Therapy

Targeted therapies are a new area of kidney cancer treatment. These medicines work differently from standard chemotherapy drugs. They target specific markers that are only present on cancer cells. This often means fewer or less severe side effects and sometimes they work when standard chemotherapy does not.

Kidney cancers are some of the most vascular—growing many new blood vessels—tumors. Giving drugs that target these new blood vessels starves the tumor. These drugs are very effective at slowing tumor growth, but are not likely to cure kidney cancer. As a result, doctors use targeted therapies for advanced kidney cancer. The goal is reducing symptoms and extending life.

Radiation

Radiation therapy uses high-energy waves or particles to destroy cancer. Unfortunately, kidney cancer does not respond to radiation. So it can’t treat or cure kidney cancer. Instead, doctors use it to help relieve symptoms when kidney cancer has spread to other organs and sites, such as the bones. They’ll deliver the radiation from a machine outside the body. Doctors call this external beam radiation.

Chemotherapy

Chemotherapy—or chemo—uses potent medicines to attack cancer cells. In general, chemotherapy is not effective in treating kidney cancer. The kidney cancer cells are very resistant to it. It is possible that it may help in a very few number of people. So doctors may still try chemotherapy if all other treatments have failed. Doctors give these medicines in cycles that last for a few weeks.

Watchful Waiting 

Watchful waiting—or active surveillance—is close monitoring to see if the tumor is growing or changing. The goal is to avoid unnecessary treatment and allow people to maintain their quality of life.

This approach may be suitable for people who have very small tumors. Doctors may recommend it for people with poor kidney function, a short life expectancy, or for those who do not want treatment. If watchful waiting causes stress, talk with your doctor about other treatment options.

Was this helpful? (7)
Medical Reviewers: William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS Last Review Date: May 26, 2016

© 2016 Healthgrades Operating Company, Inc. All rights reserved. May not be reproduced or reprinted without permission from Healthgrades Operating Company, Inc. Use of this information is governed by the Healthgrades User Agreement.

View Sources

Medical References

  1. How is Kidney Cancer Treated? American Cancer Society. http://www.cancer.org/cancer/kidneycancer/detailedguide/kidney-cancer-adult-treating-general-info. Accessed March 19, 2014.
  2. Kidney Cancer. American Society of Clinical Oncology. http://www.cancer.net/cancer-types/kidney-cancer/treatment-options. Accessed March 19, 2014.
  3. Kidney Cancer. American Urological Association. http://www.urologyhealth.org/urology/index.cfm?article=24. Accessed March 19, 2014.
  4. Renal Cell Cancer Treatment. National Cancer Institute. http://www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/pdq/treatment/renalcell/Patient/page4. Accessed March 19, 2014.

Your opinion matters!



Please fill out this short, 1-3 minute survey about Advances in Immunotherapy. Your answers are anonymous and will not be linked to you personally.

The survey will appear at the end of your visit.

Thank you!

A survey will be presented to you after you finish viewing our Advances in Immunotherapy content.

You Might Also Like

Share via Email

PREVIOUS ARTICLE:

7 Nonsmoking Causes of Lung Cancer

NEXT ARTICLE:

Lung Cancer By the Numbers

Up Next

Lung Cancer By the Numbers