Treating Kidney Cancer
Making treatment decisions
After the cancer is found and staged, your cancer care team will discuss your treatment options with you. It is important to take time and think about your possible choices. In choosing a treatment plan, one of the most important factors is the stage of the cancer. Other factors to consider include your overall health, the likely side effects of the treatment, and the probability of curing the disease, extending life, or relieving symptoms.
If you have kidney cancer, your treatment options may include:
- Ablation and other local therapies
- Active surveillance
- Radiation therapy
- Targeted therapy
- Immunotherapy (biologic therapy)
Sometimes, more than one of type of treatment might be used. See “Treatment choices by stage for kidney cancer” to learn about common treatment plans.
You may have different types of doctors on your treatment team, depending on the stage of your cancer and your treatment options. These doctors could include:
- A urologist: a surgeon who specializes in treating diseases of the urinary system (and male reproductive system)
- A radiation oncologist: a doctor who treats cancer with radiation therapy
- A medical oncologist: a doctor who treats cancer with medicines such as chemotherapy
Many other specialists might be part of your treatment team as well, including physician assistants, nurse practitioners, nurses, physical therapists, social workers, and other health professionals. See Health Professionals Associated With Cancer Care for more on this.
It’s important to discuss all of your treatment options as well as their possible side effects with your doctors to help make the decision that best fits your needs. (See “What should you ask your doctor about kidney cancer?” for some questions to ask.)
When time permits, getting a second opinion is often a good idea. It can give you more information and help you feel good about the treatment plan you choose.
Thinking about taking part in a clinical trial
Clinical trials are carefully controlled research studies that are done to get a closer look at promising new treatments or procedures. Clinical trials are one way to get state-of-the art cancer treatment. In some cases they may be the only way to get access to newer treatments. They are also the best way for doctors to learn better methods to treat cancer. Still, they are not right for everyone.
If you would like to learn more about clinical trials that might be right for you, start by asking your doctor if your clinic or hospital conducts clinical trials. You can also call our clinical trials matching service at 1-800-303-5691 for a list of studies that meet your medical needs, or see the Clinical Trials section to learn more.
Considering complementary and alternative methods
You may hear about alternative or complementary methods that your doctor hasn’t mentioned to treat your cancer or relieve symptoms. These methods can include vitamins, herbs, and special diets, or other methods such as acupuncture or massage, to name a few.
Complementary methods refer to treatments that are used along with your regular medical care. Alternative treatments are used instead of a doctor’s medical treatment. Although some of these methods might be helpful in relieving symptoms or helping you feel better, many have not been proven to work. Some might even be dangerous.
Be sure to talk to your cancer care team about any method you are thinking about using. They can help you learn what is known (or not known) about the method, which can help you make an informed decision. See the Complementary and Alternative Medicine section to learn more.
Help getting through cancer treatment
Your cancer care team will be your first source of information and support, but there are other resources for help when you need it. Hospital- or clinic-based support services are an important part of your care. These might include nursing or social work services, financial aid, nutritional advice, rehab, or spiritual help.
The American Cancer Society also has programs and services – including rides to treatment, lodging, support groups, and more – to help you get through treatment. Call our National Cancer Information Center at 1-800-227-2345 and speak with one of our trained specialists on call 24 hours a day, every day.