Kidney Cancer (Adult) Renal Cell Carcinoma Overview

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Treating Kidney Cancer TOPICS

Radiation therapy for kidney cancer

Radiation treatment uses high-energy rays (such as x-rays) or particles to kill cancer cells or shrink tumors. External radiation aims radiation from outside the body on the cancer. This type of treatment is sometimes used as the main treatment for kidney cancer in patients who cannot have surgery. It can also be used to ease symptoms such as pain, bleeding, or problems caused by the cancer spreading.

But kidney cancer does not respond well to radiation. For patients who can have surgery, it is not often used before or after the surgery because studies have shown that is doesn’t help people live longer.

Radiation therapy is more often used to ease (palliate) symptoms of kidney cancer such as pain, bleeding, or problems caused by cancer spread (especially to the bones or brain). A special type of radiation treatment known as stereotactic radiosurgery can sometimes be used for single tumors that have spread to the brain. This treatment does not actually involve surgery.

Side effects of radiation can include mild skin changes that look like sunburn, nausea, diarrhea, or tiredness. Often these go away after a short while. Radiation can also make the side effects of chemotherapy worse. Radiation to the chest area can cause lung damage and lead to trouble breathing and shortness of breath. Side effects of radiation to the brain usually become most serious one or 2 years after treatment and can include headaches and trouble thinking.

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