Active Surveillance for Kidney Cancer

One option for some patients with small kidney tumors (those less than 4 cm, which is about 1½ inches), may be to give no treatment at first and watch the tumor carefully to see if it grows. The tumor is removed (or treated another way) if it grows quickly or gets larger than 4 cm.

This approach is most often used in elderly or frail patients as it avoids the risks of treatment. Often, a biopsy is done before deciding to watch the tumor to see if the growth is really cancer. Some of these small tumors turn out to not be cancers at all. Watching them closely for a time helps doctors decide which tumors are more likely to be cancer based on their growth pattern.

The American Cancer Society medical and editorial content team
Our team is made up of doctors and master’s-prepared nurses with deep knowledge of cancer care as well as journalists, editors, and translators with extensive experience in medical writing.

Last Medical Review: February 24, 2014 Last Revised: May 16, 2016

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