Kidney Cancer

Treatment depends mainly on the stage of disease and the patient’s general health and age. The physician can describe treatment choices and discuss the expected results. You and your NEIU physician will work together to develop a treatment plan that fits the patient’s needs.

Methods of 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 physician about taking part in a clinical trial, a research study of new treatment methods of which NEIU is one of the leading urology research centers in the Midwest.


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. Your NEIU physician can explain each operation and discuss which is most suitable for you.

  • Radical nephrectomy:Kidney cancer is usually treated with radical nephrectomy. The surgeon removes the entire kidney along with the adrenal gland and some tissue around the kidney. Some lymph nodes in the area also may be removed.
  • Simple nephrectomy:The surgeon removes only the kidney. Some people with Stage I kidney cancer may have a simple nephrectomy.
  • Partial nephrectomy:The surgeon removes only the part of the kidney that contains the tumor. This type of surgery may be used when the person has only one kidney, or when the cancer affects both kidneys. Also, a person with a small kidney tumor may have this type of surgery.

Arterial Embolization

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 physician inserts a narrow tube (catheter) into a blood vessel in the leg. The tube is passed up to the main blood vessel that supplies blood to the kidney. The physician 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.

Radiation Therapy

Radiation therapy is another type of local therapy. It uses high-energy rays to kill cancer cells only in the treated area. 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.

Biological 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 immune system to fight cancer.

For patients with metastatic kidney cancer, the physician 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, anticancer drugs have shown limited use against kidney cancer. However, many physicians are studying new drugs and new combinations that may prove more helpful.

Cancer Screening

The purpose of cancer screening is to detect potentially life-threatening diseases as early as possible, at a point when treatment is easier and cure more likely. Urine screening can detect cancer and other problems in both the kidneys and the bladder. It consists of a dipstick test for the presence of blood and other specific substances in the urine and is often performed at routine physician visits. If the abnormality is confirmed by the examination of urine under the microscope, a thorough evaluation of the entire urinary tract is performed.