Kidney Cancer - Diagnosis & Treatment

How is kidney cancer treated?

Kidney cancer is usually treated using a combination of surgery and other therapies.

Surgical treatments for kidney cancer

  • Radical nephrectomy – This is the removal of the kidney, adrenal gland and surrounding tissues. The surgeon may also remove nearby lymph nodes. It is considered the most common surgery for kidney cancer and is done through a small incision with a laparoscope.
  • Simple nephrectomy – This is the removal of only the kidney.
  • Partial nephrectomy – This removes the tumour from the kidney and some nearby tissues. This procedure is used for patients with small tumours that are less than 4cm, or for patients where radical nephrectomy might hurt the other kidney.

If surgery cannot remove the kidney cancer, the doctor may suggest some other options.

Non-surgical treatments for kidney cancer

  • Radiofrequency ablation – This uses high-energy radio waves to kill the tumour.
  • Arterial embolisation – This involves inserting material into an artery that leads to the kidney, blocking the blood flow to the tumour. This procedure may be done to reduce the bleeding from the tumour before surgery.
  • Chemotherapy – This involves the use of drugs to shrink or kill the cancer cells. These drugs enter the bloodstream and can affect the cancer cells all over the body.
  • Targeted therapy – This is for patients whose cancer has spread. Targeted therapy uses specific drugs to block the growth and spread of cancer by interfering with specific molecules that are involved in the tumour growth and spread. It has been proven to control kidney cancer.
  • Radiotherapy – This is also called radiation therapy, this treatment uses high-energy rays to destroy cancer cells only in the treated area.
  • Immunotherapy – Given by injection, this therapy does not directly kill the cancer but serves only to boost the immune system of the patient, allowing the heightened immune system to then go after the cancer. Examples of this therapy used in the past for metastatic kidney cancer include interferon alpha or interleukin-2. There are currently new approved immunotherapies which have shown good activity and control, particularly in advanced kidney cancer.
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