Kidney Cancer Therapies

Kidney cancer therapies include removal of the kidney and the surrounding tissue (radical nephrectomy), removal of the kidney, surrounding tissue, and attached lymph nodes (regional lymphadenectomy), removal of tumor only (partial nephrectomy, also called nephron-sparing surgery) removes only the tumor and a small amount of the surrounding healthy kidney. Tumors can be destroyed by freezing them (cryoablation) or heating them (radiofrequency ablation). Immunotherapy and vaccine therapy stimulate the body’s own disease-fighting cells to eliminate or reduce the cancer. If cancer has spread beyond the kidneys, chemotherapy and radiation therapy might be used. Both partial and total nephrectomies can be done robotically. For more information about the technology used, please visit da Vinci Surgery Partial Nephrectomy and

Radical Nephrectomy Therapy
A radical nephrectomy surgically removes the entire cancerous kidney, its attached adrenal gland, and the fatty tissue that surrounds the kidney. This is the most common surgery performed for renal cell carcinoma.
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Regional Lymphadenectomy
This procedure is sometimes performed in addition to the radical nephrectomy. A regional lymphadenectomy removes nearby lymph nodes to determine whether the cancer has spread to them.
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Partial Nephrectomy / Nephron-Sparing Surgery
The partial nephrectomy removes only the diseased portion of the kidney. This procedure is typically performed when a patient has cancer in both kidneys or if they have only one kidney and it has developed cancer.

More frequently partial nephrectomies are being performed on patients with small renal tumors (<4 centimeters) in only one kidney, allowing the patient to retain partial kidney function in the affected kidney.
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Cryoablation technology uses ice to freeze tumors. The ice created for cryoablation procedures is colder than 100 degrees Celcius below zero and can destroy cancer tissue very efficiently. This ice can also be targeted very precisely so that it can be used to destroy a kidney cancer while preserving normal kidney and the normal structures that are near to the kidney.
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Radiofrequency Ablation (RFA)
A needle-like RFA probe is placed inside the tumor. Radiofrequency waves passing through the probe increase the temperature within tumor tissue that results in destruction of the tumor. Generally RFA is used to treat patients with small tumors that started within the organ (primary tumors) or that spread to the organ (metastasis).
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Immunotherapy & Vaccine Therapies
Immunotherapy works with the body’s immune system to fight cancer and other diseases. There are many types of biologic therapy. A family of drugs called cytokines has become a standard treatment for metastatic renal cell carcinoma. 10 to 20% of patients taking cytokines experience cancer shrinkage to less than half of its original size. The small percent of patients who respond well to therapy tend to experience lasting results.

The side effects of biologic therapy vary depending on the person treated and the type of therapy given. They may include, but are not limited to:

  • Rashes
  • Swelling
  • Flu-like symptoms
  • Lowered blood pressure
  • Severe fatigue

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Chemotherapy & Radiation Therapy
For patients whose health is too poor to undergo surgery radiation therapy is sometimes used. In this therapy, high-energy radiation is used to kill cancer cells. It is also sometimes used as a palliative therapy to ease the symptoms of renal cancer. Renal cell carcinomas, unfortunately, are not very sensitive to radiation.

The side effects of radiation therapy vary from one person to another and there is no certain way of knowing who may or may not have side effects, what they will be, or when they might occur. Some of the common side effects of radiation therapy are:

  • Skin irritation similar to sunburn
  • Nausea
  • Fatigue
  • Diarrhea

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