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While surgery is the main treatment for kidney cancers that can be removed, some people are too sick to have surgery. Sometimes other methods can be used to destroy kidney tumors. But there is much less information on how well these methods work over the long term, so they are not yet considered a standard treatment.

Cryotherapy (cryoablation)

This treatment uses extreme cold to destroy the tumor. A hollow probe (needle) is put into the tumor either through the skin or during laparoscopic surgery. Very cold gases are passed through the probe, creating an ice ball that kills the tumor.

Radiofrequency ablation (RFA)

This treatment uses high-energy radio waves to heat the tumor. A thin, needle-like probe is placed through the skin and moved until the end is in the tumor. Once it is in place, an electric current is passed through the tip of the probe, which heats the tumor and kills the cancer cells.

Arterial embolization

This is treatment to block the artery that feeds the kidney with the cancer. A small catheter (tube) is placed in an artery in the inner thigh and is moved up until it reaches the artery going to the kidney. Material is then injected into the artery to block it. This method isn’t used very often, but it is sometimes used before surgery to kill some of the cancer cells and to reduce bleeding during the operation.

Last Medical Review: 04/29/2014
Last Revised: 02/10/2016