Kidney Cancer Treatment

Specific treatment for kidney cancer will be determined by your physician 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 (Also called radiotherapy.) 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.
  • 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.
  • hormone therapy Hormone therapy is used in a small number of patients with advanced kidney cancer to try to control the growth of cancer cells.
  • 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.

New chemotherapy drugs and targeted therapies including thalidomide, Avastin® (bevacizumab), Nexavar® (sorafenib), and Sutent® (sunitinib) are being used to treat kidney cancer. A vaccine for treatment also is under study.

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