Kidney Cancer (Adult) Renal Cell Carcinoma Overview

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After Treatment TOPICS

Moving on after treatment for kidney cancer

For some people with kidney cancer, treatment may remove or destroy the cancer. Completing treatment can be both stressful and exciting. You may be relieved to finish treatment, but find it hard not to worry about cancer coming back. (When cancer comes back after treatment, it is called recurrence.) This is a very common concern in people who have had cancer.

It may take a while before your fears lessen. But it may help to know that many people have learned to live with this uncertainty and are leading full lives. Our document, Living With Uncertainty: The Fear of Cancer Recurrence gives more details about this.

For other people, the cancer may never go away completely. These people may get regular treatments with targeted therapy drugs, chemotherapy, radiation, or other treatments to try to help keep the cancer in check. Learning to live with cancer that does not go away can be hard and very stressful. It has its own type of uncertainty. Our document, When Cancer Doesn’t Go Away, talks more about this.

Follow-up care

When treatment ends, your doctors will still want to watch you closely. It is very important to go to all of your scheduled visits. During these visits, your doctors will ask questions about any problems you may have. You might have exams and lab tests or x-rays and scans to look for signs of cancer or treatment side effects. Almost any cancer treatment can have side effects. Some can last for a few weeks to months, but others can last the rest of your life. This is the time for you to talk to your cancer care team about any changes or problems you notice and any questions or concerns you have.

For people whose kidney cancer has been removed by surgery, doctor visits (which include physical exams and blood tests) are usually done about every 6 months for the first 2 years after treatment, then yearly for the next several years. A CT scan is usually recommended about 4 to 6 months after surgery and may be done again later if there’s reason to suspect the cancer may have returned. Patients who have a higher risk of their cancers coming back after surgery, such as cancer that had spread to lymph nodes, may be seen more often with CT scans done at least every 6 months for the first few years.

It is also important to keep health insurance. While you hope your cancer won’t come back, it could happen. If it does, you don't want to have to worry about paying for treatment. Should your cancer come back, our document When Your Cancer Comes Back: Cancer Recurrence helps you manage and cope with this phase of your treatment.

Seeing a new doctor

At some point after your cancer is found and treated, you may find yourself in the office of a new doctor. It is important that you be able to give your new doctor the exact details of your diagnosis and treatment. Make sure you have this information handy and always keep copies for yourself:

  • A copy of your pathology report from any biopsy or surgery
  • If you had surgery, a copy of your operative report
  • If you were in the hospital, a copy of the discharge summary that the doctor wrote when you were sent home from the hospital
  • If you had radiation treatment, a summary of the type and dose of radiation and when and where it was given
  • If you had chemotherapy (including biologic therapy or targeted therapy), a list of your drugs, drug doses, and when you took them
  • Copies of your CTs, MRIs, or other imaging tests (these can often be placed on a DVD)

Last Medical Review: 11/27/2012
Last Revised: 04/01/2014