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Some small kidney tumors are benign. And most (3 out of 4) small kidney cancers are slow growing. One option for some people with these small kidney tumors (less than 4 cm[about 1½ inches]), may be to give no treatment at first and watch the tumor carefully to see if it grows. This is usually done by imaging tests (ultrasound, CT or MRI scan) every 3 to 6 months. If it grows quickly or gets larger than 4 cm, the tumor is removed or treated another way.
This approach is most often used for elderly or frail patients as it avoids the risks of treatment, such as surgery or ablation. Watching the tumor closely for a time helps doctors decide which tumors are more likely to be cancer based on their growth. Sometimes, a biopsy is done before deciding to watch the tumor to see if the lump is really cancer.
Our team is made up of doctors and oncology certified nurses with deep knowledge of cancer care as well as journalists, editors, and translators with extensive experience in medical writing.
Campbell S, Uzzo RG, Allaf ME, Bass EB, Cadeddu JA, Chang A, et al. Renal Mass and Localized Renal Cancer: AUA Guideline. J Urol. 2017; 198:520-529. doi: 10.1016/j.juro.2017.04.100. Epub 2017 May 4.
Correa AF, Lane BR, Rini BI, Uzzo RG. Ch 66 - Cancer of the kidney. In: DeVita VT, Hellman S, Rosenberg SA, eds. Cancer: Principles and Practice of Oncology. 11th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins; 2019.
McNamara MA, Zhang T, Harrison MR, George DJ. Ch 79 - Cancer of the kidney. In: Niederhuber JE, Armitage JO, Doroshow JH, Kastan MB, Tepper JE, eds. Abeloff’s Clinical Oncology. 6th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Elsevier: 2020.
National Comprehensive Cancer Network. NCCN Clinical Practice Guidelines in Oncology:Kidney Cancer. V.2.2020. Accessed at: www.nccn.org on November 12, 2019.
Pierorazio PM and Campbell SC. UpToDate. Diagnostic approach, differential diagnosis, and management of a small renal mass. This topic last updated: Jul 09, 2018. Accessed at https://www.uptodate.com/contents/diagnostic-approach-differential-diagnosis-and-treatment-of-a-small-renal-mass on November 12, 2019.
Last Revised: February 1, 2020
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