Kidney Cancer - Treatment

Kidney, or renal cell, cancer is a disease in which malignant (cancer) cells form in the tubules of the kidney. These are the kidney cancer treatment options available.

Treatment for kidney cancer varies depending on the stage of the disease.

Treatment for Early Kidney Cancer 

Kidney cancer treatment for early cancer may include:


Surgery is the standard treatment option for those with kidney tumours who are fit for surgery. There are two types: 
Partial nephrectomy, where the tumour and surrounding tissue are removed, but the remainder of the kidney is left. This is performed when the tumour is small or if the person has only one kidney left or has impaired kidney function. 
Radical nephrectomy, where the whole kidney, including the tumour, is removed. This is done when the tumour is large and close to the blood vessels or ureter. 

Kidney surgery can be performed using conventional open laparoscopic techniques (using a thin tube with a light and camera) or robot-assisted techniques. The choice depends on the characteristics of the tumour and the suitability of the patient for the surgery. 

Radiofrequency Ablation 

This is a minimally invasive procedure that uses thermal energy to destroy tumour cells. 

Active Surveillance 

Certain patients with a very small kidney tumour may receive kidney cancer care simply by being monitored closely with kidney scans to assess the growth rate of or changes in their tumour. 

Radiofrequency ablation and active surveillance are more suitable for elderly patients with multiple medical problems who are not fit for surgery. 

Treatment for Advanced Kidney Cancer

For some patients whose kidney cancer is discovered late and has already spread to other parts of the body, surgery to remove the kidney, in combination with systemic therapy, has often shown to be effective treatment — even in advanced kidney cancer. 

Systemic treatment in this group of patients may include :
Targeted therapy — uses drugs that target specific tumour growth pathways in the cancer cell 
Immunotherapy — uses drugs that incite the body’s immune response towards the cancer 

If you are not fit for surgery, immunotherapy or targeted therapy may be given to control the disease with or without surgery later, depending on your response to treatment. It is reassuring to note that there are still very effective treatments for patients presenting late with advanced stage of kidney cancer.

Most Kidney Cancer Patients Do Not Need Dialysis 

As people can lead a normal life with one good kidney, most kidney cancer patients do not end up with kidney failure requiring dialysis. Your treating doctor will counsel you on the risks of impaired kidney function after surgery which depends on the presence of factors such as diabetes, high blood pressure and advanced age.

Kidney Cancer Prevention

The causes of kidney cancer are not always known, though some are hereditary. But by being aware of certain risk factors, you can help protect yourself from the disease:
Smokers have approximately twice the risk of developing kidney cancer than non-smokers
Workers in contact with chemicals such as aniline dye and heavy metals are at greater risk 
Obesity is a factor; so eat a healthy diet and exercise regularly to keep to a healthy weight
Long-term use of mild painkillers such as paracetamol, and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as ibuprofen and aspirin are associated with a higher risk of the disease

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