Kidney Cancer Treatment
Kidney Cancer Treatment Options
Kidney cancer treatment options usually include five types of therapies. Others are currently being tested in
clinical kidney cancer treatment trials. Such trials are research studies whose goal is to improve on current
kidney cancer treatment options or develop new ones. Five standard kidney cancer treatment options currently in use
include surgery, radiation, chemotherapy, biologic therapy and targeted therapy.
Surgery - This is done to remove part or all of the kidney. It is often
used to treat the kind of kidney cancer known as renal cell carcinoma, and is known as a nephrectomy, or kidney removal surgery. It is the most common type of kidney cancer treatment. There are
several kinds of nephrectomies.
A partial nephrectomy is done to remove the cancer within the kidney and possibly some of the
tissue around it. This leaves part of the kidney in place, and it continues to function. It's possible for an
individual to live if part of one kidney is still working.
A simple nephrectomy is a procedure in which an entire kidney is removed.
A radical nephrectomy involves removing an entire kidney, the adrenal gland, surrounding tissue,
and, in many cases, lymph nodes that are located nearby.
Even if all the cancer appears to have been removed through a nephrectomy, the doctor may still
recommend other forms of kidney cancer treatment, like chemotherapy or radiation in case any cancer cells still
remain. This is known as adjuvant therapy, and it lowers the risk that kidney cancer will return.
Radiation therapy - This is another kidney cancer treatment. It employs
high-energy x-rays or other types of radiation to kill cancer cells or keep them from growing.
Two types of radiation therapy are commonly used today. External radiation therapy focuses
radiation from a machine outside the body on the cancerous area. Internal radiation uses radioactive substances
sealed that are placed directly into or near the cancer. The doctor will choose the type of radiation based on the
stage the cancer has reached.
Chemotherapy for kidney cancer - Everyone knows what
chemotherapy is. As with other forms of cancer, chemicals that kill cancer cells are introduced into the body. The
goal is to stop cancerous cells from dividing.
There are a number of different ways to administer chemotherapy for renal cell carcinoma or
kidney cancer. Once again, the doctor decides based on the type of kidney cancer the patients has and the stage it
Biologic therapy - This type of uses the patient's own immune system.
Substances made by the body or made in a laboratory assist the body's natural defenses in battling the cancer
cells. This type of kidney cancer treatment is also known as biotherapy or immunotherapy.
Targeted therapy - This type uses medications or other agents to identify
and attack specific cancer cells without harming normal cells. This treatment is often done to treat advanced renal
cell cancer. It uses antiangiogenic agents, which keep blood vessels from forming in a tumor. Without a sufficient
supply of blood, the tumor will either stop growing or shrink.
A treatment known as arterial embolization may be also be used to shrink the tumor when surgery
isn't possible. In this procedure, the surgeon makes a small incision and places a catheter into the main blood
vessel that flows to the kidney. Tiny pieces of a special gelatin sponge are then fed into the blood vessel. This
blocks the blood flow and "starves" the cancer cells of oxygen and other substances they need to grow.
Cancer is one of the most serious kidney problems. If kidney cancer treatment is not successful and cancer destroys both
kidneys, there are only two options for survival: years of kidney dialysis, or a kidney transplant. Both topics
are covered in other sections of this website.