Kidney Cancer (cont.)

What are the side effects of treatment for kidney cancer?

Because treatment may damage healthy cells and tissues, unwanted side effects are common. These side effects depend mainly on the type and extent of the treatment. Side effects may not be the same for each person, and they may change from one treatment session to the next. Before treatment starts, the health care team will explain possible side effects and suggest ways to help the patient manage them.

Surgery

It takes time to heal after surgery, and the time needed to recover is different for each person. Patients are often uncomfortable during the first few days. However, medicine can usually control their pain. Before surgery, patients should discuss the plan for pain relief with the doctor or nurse. After surgery, the doctor can adjust the plan if more pain relief is needed.

It is common to feel tired or weak for a while. The health care team watches the patient for signs of kidney problems by monitoring the amount of fluid the patient takes in and the amount of urine produced. They also watch for signs of bleeding, infection, or other problems requiring immediate treatment. Lab tests help the health care team monitor for signs of problems.

If one kidney is removed, the remaining kidney generally is able to perform the work of both kidneys. However, if the remaining kidney is not working well or if both kidneys are removed, dialysis is needed to clean the blood. For a few patients, kidney transplantation may be an option. For this procedure, the transplant surgeon replaces the patient's kidney with a healthy kidney from a donor.

Arterial embolization

After arterial embolization, some patients have back pain or develop a fever. Other side effects are nausea and vomiting. These problems usually soon go away.

Radiation therapy

The side effects of radiation therapy depend mainly on the amount of radiation given and the part of the body that is treated. Patients are likely to become very tired during radiation therapy, especially in the later weeks of treatment. Resting is important, but doctors usually advise patients to try to stay as active as they can.

Radiation therapy to the kidney and nearby areas may cause nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, or urinary discomfort. Radiation therapy also may cause a decrease in the number of healthy white blood cells, which help protect the body against infection. In addition, the skin in the treated area may sometimes become red, dry, and tender. Although the side effects of radiation therapy can be distressing, the doctor can usually treat or control them.

Biological therapy

Biological therapy may cause flu-like symptoms, such as chills, fever, muscle aches, weakness, loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea. Patients also may get a skin rash. High doses of some of these drugs may cause to leakage of fluid into the tissues. These problems can be severe, but they usually go away after treatment stops.

Chemotherapy

The side effects of chemotherapy depend mainly on the specific drugs and the amount received at one time. In general, anticancer drugs affect cells that divide rapidly, especially:

  • Blood cells: These cells fight infection, help the blood to clot, and carry oxygen to all parts of the body. When drugs affect blood cells, patients are more likely to get infections, may bruise or bleed easily, and may feel very weak and tired.
  • Cells in hair roots: Chemotherapy can cause hair loss. The hair grows back, but sometimes the new hair is somewhat different in color and texture.
  • Cells that line the digestive tract: Chemotherapy can cause poor appetite, nausea and vomiting, diarrhea, or mouth and lip sores. Many of these side effects can be controlled with drugs.

Nutrition

Patients need to eat well during cancer therapy. They need enough calories to maintain a good weight and protein to keep up strength. Good nutrition often helps people with cancer feel better and have more energy.

But eating well can be difficult. Patients may not feel like eating if they are uncomfortable or tired. Also, the side effects of treatment, such as poor appetite, nausea, or vomiting, can be a problem. Some patients find that foods do not taste as good during cancer therapy.

The doctor, dietitian, or other health care provider can suggest ways to maintain a healthy diet.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 3/28/2014

Patient Comments

Viewers share their comments

Kidney Cancer - Symptoms Question: What were your symptoms of kidney cancer?
Kidney Cancer - Prognosis Question: What is the prognosis for your kidney cancer?
Kidney Cancer - Treatment Question: What was the treatment for your kidney cancer?
Kidney Cancer - Risk Factors Question: What risk factors did you or someone you know have for kidney cancer?
Kidney Cancer - Diagnosis Question: How was your kidney cancer diagnosed?
Kidney Cancer - Follow-up Care Question: What type of follow-up care have you, a friend, or relative received for kidney cancer?

STAY INFORMED

Get the Latest health and medical information delivered direct to your inbox!