- How is kidney cancer treated?
- Surgery for kidney cancer
- Ablation and other local therapy for kidney cancer
- Active surveillance for kidney cancer
- Radiation therapy for kidney cancer
- Chemotherapy for kidney cancer
- Targeted therapies for kidney cancer
- Biologic therapy (immunotherapy) for kidney cancer
- Pain control for kidney cancer
- Clinical trials for kidney cancer
- Complementary and alternative therapies for kidney cancer
- Treatment choices by stage for kidney cancer
- More treatment information about kidney cancer
Chemotherapy for kidney cancer
Chemotherapy (chemo) uses anti-cancer drugs that are given into a vein or by mouth (in pill form). These drugs enter your bloodstream and reach all areas of the body, which makes this treatment potentially useful for cancer that has spread (metastasized) to organs beyond the kidney.
Unfortunately, kidney cancer cells are usually resistant to chemo, and so chemo is not a standard treatment for kidney cancer. Some chemo drugs, such as vinblastine, floxuridine, 5-fluorouracil (5-FU), capecitabine, and gemcitabine have been shown to help a small number of patients. Still, chemo is often only used for kidney cancer after targeted drugs and/or immunotherapy have already been tried.
Possible side effects of chemotherapy
Chemo drugs work by attacking cells that are dividing quickly, which is why they often work against cancer cells. But other cells in the body, such as those in the bone marrow, the lining of the mouth and intestines, and the hair follicles, also divide quickly. These cells are also likely to be affected by chemo, which can lead to certain side effects.
The side effects of chemo depend on the type of drugs, the amount taken, and the length of treatment. Possible side effects can include:
- Hair loss
- Mouth sores
- Loss of appetite
- Nausea and vomiting
- Low blood counts
Chemo can affect the blood cell producing bone marrow, leading to low blood counts. This can cause:
- Increased chance of infections (due to low white blood cell counts)
- Easy bruising or bleeding (due to low blood platelet counts)
- Fatigue (due to low red blood cell counts)
These side effects usually go away after treatment is finished. There are often ways to prevent or lessen them. For example, drugs can be given to help prevent or reduce nausea and vomiting. Specific chemo drugs may each cause specific side effects. Ask your health care team about the side effects your chemo drugs may cause.
Last Medical Review: 11/08/2012
Last Revised: 01/18/2013