Virginia Commonwealth University

VCU Massey Cancer Center

Treatment for kidney cancer

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) – uses high-energy X-rays to kill cancer cells, and also is sometimes used to relieve pain when kidney cancer has spread to the bone.
  • Biological therapy (also called immunotherapy) – a treatment that uses the body’s own immune system to fight cancer.
  • Chemotherapy – the use of drugs to kill cancer cells.
  • Hormone therapy – used in a small number of patients with advanced kidney cancer to try to control the growth of cancer cells.
  • Arterial embolization – 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 also may be used before an operation to make surgery easier, or to provide relief from pain when removal of the tumor is not possible.