Kidney Cancer (cont.)
In this Article
Methods of kidney cancer treatment
People with kidney cancer may have surgery, arterial embolization, radiation therapy, biological therapy, or chemotherapy. Some may have a combination of treatments.
At any stage of disease, people with kidney cancer may have treatment to control pain and other symptoms, to relieve the side effects of therapy, and to ease emotional and practical problems. This kind of treatment is called supportive care, symptom management, or palliative care.
A patient may want to talk to the doctor about taking part in a clinical trial, a research study of new treatment methods. The section on "The Promise of Cancer Research" has more information about clinical trials.
Surgery is the most common treatment for kidney cancer. It is a type of local therapy. It treats cancer in the kidney and the area close to the tumor.
An operation to remove the kidney is called a nephrectomy. There are several types of nephrectomies. The type depends mainly on the stage of the tumor. The doctor can explain each operation and discuss which is most suitable for the patient:
People may want to ask the doctor these questions before having surgery:
Arterial embolization is a type of local therapy that shrinks the tumor. Sometimes it is done before an operation to make surgery easier. When surgery is not possible, embolization may be used to help relieve the symptoms of kidney cancer.
The doctor inserts a narrow tube (catheter) into a blood vessel in the leg. The tube is passed up to the main blood vessel (renal artery) that supplies blood to the kidney. The doctor injects a substance into the blood vessel to block the flow of blood into the kidney. The blockage prevents the tumor from getting oxygen and other substances it needs to grow.
People may want to ask the doctor these questions before having arterial embolization:
Radiation therapy (also called radiotherapy) is another type of local therapy. It uses high-energy rays to kill cancer cells. It affects cancer cells only in the treated area. A large machine directs radiation at the body. The patient has treatment at the hospital or clinic, 5 days a week for several weeks.
A small number of patients have radiation therapy before surgery to shrink the tumor. Some have it after surgery to kill cancer cells that may remain in the area. People who cannot have surgery may have radiation therapy to relieve pain and other problems caused by the cancer.
People may want to ask the doctor these questions before having radiation therapy:
Biological therapy is a type of systemic therapy. It uses substances that travel through the bloodstream, reaching and affecting cells all over the body. Biological therapy uses the body's natural ability (immune system) to fight cancer.
For patients with metastatic kidney cancer, the doctor may suggest interferon alpha or interleukin-2 (also called IL-2 or aldesleukin). The body normally produces these substances in small amounts in response to infections and other diseases. For cancer treatment, they are made in the laboratory in large amounts.
Chemotherapy is also a type of systemic therapy. Anticancer drugs enter the bloodstream and travel throughout the body. Although useful for many other cancers, most anticancer drugs have shown limited use against kidney cancer. However, many doctors are studying new drugs called targeted agents used wither alone or in new combinations that may prove more helpful. The section on "The Promise of Cancer Research" has more information about these studies.
People may want to ask the doctor these questions before having biological therapy or chemotherapy:
Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 3/28/2014
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