Kidney Cancer Care


Kidney cancer does not usually cause symptoms until it is fairly advanced. In fact, kidney masses are often found incidentally during an ultrasound for something else. The larger the mass, the more likely it is to be kidney cancer. Growths that are less than 4 cm are more likely to be benign. However, it is very hard to do a kidney biopsy, and the mass is usually surgically removed in order to obtain a diagnosis. Surgery is considered the primary treatment for most kidney cancers as they are resistant to radiation and chemotherapy. Surgery is considered the primary treatment for most cancers.

Surgical Treatments

The choice of treatment for kidney cancer depends on the aggressiveness of the tumor, whether and how much the disease has spread, and the patient’s general health and lifestyle considerations. Surgery is considered the primary treatment for most kidney cancers:

  • Radical Nephrectomy
    In a radical nephrectomy, the surgeon removes the kidney, surrounding tissue, and often the adrenal gland and nearby lymph nodes (if needed).
  • Partial Nephrectomy
    A partial nephrectomy removes tumors and a small amount of surrounding healthy kidney tissue. Both radical and partial nephrectomies can be performed through open surgery or using the da Vinci Xi® surgical system.
  • Immunotherapy
    Advanced kidney cancer is resistant to most chemotherapy drugs. The most effective nonsurgical treatment to date is immunotherapy—the use of drugs to stimulate an immune response against cancer. Because these medications may cause severe side effects, they are given at the hospital so that patients can be monitored.
  • Cryotherapy
    Cryotherapy is a method of killing cancer cells by freezing them. This treatment may be appropriate for people with small, early-stage kidney cancers, less than 4 cm across.
  • Active Surveillance
    One option for some patients with kidney tumors that are less than 3 cm is to watch the tumor to see if it grows. If it grows fast enough or gets larger than 4 cm—a little over 1½ inches—it is removed. 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.