Once the urologist diagnoses the type and stage of cancer you have, an appropriate treatment plan can be outlined. Before starting treatment, you may want to think about taking part in a clinical trial. A treatment clinical trial is a research study to help improve current treatments or explore new treatments for patients with cancer. Choosing the most appropriate cancer treatment is a decision that should involve your family and healthcare team.
For renal cell cancer, five types of standard treatment are used:
Surgery to remove part or all of the kidney, including:
- Partial nephrectomy: A surgical procedure to remove the cancer within the kidney and some of the tissue around it. This may prevent loss of kidney function when the other kidney is damaged or has already been removed.
- Simple nephrectomy: A surgical procedure to remove the affected kidney only
- Radical nephrectomy: A surgical procedure to remove the kidney, the adrenal gland, surrounding tissue and, usually, nearby lymph nodes
A person can live with part of one working kidney, but if both kidneys are removed or not working, the person will need dialysis (a procedure to clean the blood using a machine outside of the body) or a kidney transplant (replacement with a healthy donated kidney).
When surgery to remove the tumor is not possible, a treatment called arterial embolization may be used to shrink the tumor. Many patients also undergo radiation or chemotherapy after surgery to ensure that all cancer cells are destroyed.
- Radiation therapy uses high-energy radiology or other types of radiation to kill cancer cells or keep them from growing. There are external and internal radiation therapies.
- Chemotherapy is a cancer treatment that uses drugs to stop the growth of cancer cells, either by killing the cells or by stopping them from dividing.
- Biologic therapy is a treatment that uses the patient’s immune system to fight cancer. This type of cancer treatment is also called biotherapy or immunotherapy.
- Targeted therapy uses drugs or other substances that can find and attack specific cancer cells without harming normal cells.