Kidney Cancer Treatment

Treatment options for kidney cancer include surgery, chemotherapy, biological therapy and radiation therapy. You can rest assured knowing that we have experts in laparoscopic and robotic-assisted kidney cancer surgery should those procedures be required.

You may receive more than one type of cancer treatment, depending on several factors, including the grade of the tumor, where it is located and whether it has spread to other parts of your body. Before we set up a specific treatment plan for your kidney cancer, we will take the following into account:

  • Your age, overall health and medical history
  • The extent of the disease
  • Your tolerance of specific medicines, procedures or therapies
  • Expectations for the course of the disease
  • Your opinion or preference

We will sit with you and discuss the options available so that you can be as informed as possible when making the decision.


Surgery is the most common treatment for people with kidney cancer. The type of surgery depends on the size and stage of the cancer, whether you have two kidneys and whether cancer was found in both kidneys.

If one kidney is removed, the remaining kidney will need to do the work of both. However, if your remaining kidney isn’t functioning well, you may need dialysis. Some people may need a kidney transplant.

Here are some types of surgery:

  • Removing the entire kidney: This is called a radical nephrectomy. Your surgeon removes the entire kidney along with the adrenal gland. Lymph nodes in the area may also be removed.
  • Removing part of the kidney: This is called a partial nephrectomy. Your surgeon removes only the part of the kidney that contains the tumor. This is done either by a large incision or by laparoscopic surgery.
    • Laparoscopic surgery is a minimally invasive robotic-assisted surgery that involves using a robot inserted through a small incision to remove the tumor. Providence Saint John’s specializes in robotic kidney surgery using the da Vinci Surgical System. A urologic oncologist uses computerized imaging to direct the robot as it performs the procedure. This minimally invasive surgery means less blood loss and pain, and a faster recovery.
  • Cryosurgery: The surgeon inserts a tool through a small incision or directly through the skin and the tool freezes and kills the kidney tumor.

Other treatments may include:

  • Radiofrequency ablation: The surgeon inserts a probe through the skin or through a small incision and kills the kidney cancer cells with heat.
  • Radiation therapy: This treatment is much like getting an X-ray, but the radiation is much stronger. Kidney cancers are not very sensitive to radiation. The treatment is used most often to ease symptoms of kidney cancer such as pain or bleeding caused by the cancer’s spread.

    At Providence Saint John’s, we also prescribe TomoTherapy whenever possible. This advanced radiation treatment uses computer imaging to closely target the kidney cancer. As a result, a higher dose of radiation can be used with less damage to surrounding tissue.

  • Targeted therapy: People with kidney cancer that has spread may receive a type of drug called targeted therapy to shrink a kidney tumor or slow its growth. The drug usually is taken by mouth.
  • Biological therapy: People with kidney cancer that has spread may receive biological therapy. This treatment is meant to slow the growth of tumors or shrink them. The biological treatment is injected intravenously or under the skin.
  • Chemotherapy: This treatment uses anti-cancer drugs that are given intravenously or by mouth to reach all areas of the body. However, kidney cancer generally is resistant to chemotherapy, so it is not a standard treatment.