How is Kidney Cancer Treated?

One of the cancers that the American Cancer Society has chosen to bring attention to in the month of March is kidney cancer. Kidney cancer, also referred to as kidney and renal pelvis cancer or renal cell cancer accounts for about 4% of all new cancer diagnoses and a little over 2% of all cancer deaths every year in the United States. The 5-year survival rate for patients with kidney cancer is relatively high – over 75%.

Your two kidneys are responsible for filtering liquid waste from your body. At the center of your kidneys is your renal pelvis, which collects urine and channels it into your ureters – tubes that connect your kidneys to your bladder. With kidney cancer, cells in your kidney reproduce without stopping, causing tumors to grow. These tumors can cause symptoms such as blood in the urine, swelling in your abdomen, pain in your side or lower back, unexplained fevers, unexplained weight loss, loss of appetite, and generally feeling poor. Kidney cancer can be diagnosed through a CT scan or MRI exam.

Cancer treatments can take many forms. With kidney cancer, you may be treated with surgery, immunotherapy, targeted therapy, radiation therapy, chemotherapy, or a combination of these treatments. To determine which treatment is best for you, your oncologist will take into account many factors, including the stage of your disease, your age, your overall health, and your goals of care. In some cases, your oncologist may even suggest “active surveillance,” which is sometimes appropriate in non-aggressive cancers. This approach involves regular clinic appointments and diagnostic testing but no active treatment.

If you are diagnosed with kidney cancer, your oncologist will discuss in detail the different therapies available, as well as their likelihood of success and any possible adverse responses you may have to these treatments. Armed with this information, you can develop a treatment plan in consultation with your doctor and your family.

Below is a description of some of the treatments we offer in-house at Beacon Clinic for kidney cancer patients.

What Is Immunotherapy?

Immunotherapy consists of taking medications that help the body fight disease more effectively. The aim is to strengthen your immune response so your body seeks out and destroys cancerous cells. Some immunotherapy drugs alter the proteins on the surface of the cancer cells, while others contain proteins that destroy tumor cells. Because immunotherapy is a growing field, clinical trials are sometimes available for kidney cancer patients.

What Is Chemotherapy?

While immunotherapy targets the immune system, chemotherapy addresses cancer cells more directly. Chemotherapy involves ingesting specific chemical medications formulated to destroy cancerous tissue or stop cancerous cells from replicating. Chemotherapy is usually administered in rounds of treatment, so patients may receive a dose every day for a few weeks, or doses may be more widely spaced out. After each cycle, more imaging studies are performed to determine the effectiveness of any particular chemotherapy treatment. Treatment plans can be adjusted based on how well a specific medication works.

Many clinics are now using oral chemotherapy instead of IVs (intravenous delivery). This reduces the number of office visits and blood draws, and it doesn’t require patients to have a port in place. (A port is a small device placed under the skin that connects to a vein and is used to draw blood and deliver chemotherapy or other IV medications.) Some people also experience fewer side effects with oral chemotherapy.

Why Get Cancer Treatment at a Cancer Center?

Cancer treatment usually involves several different medical disciplines and services. For example, a cancer patient might need a multidisciplinary team that includes an oncologist, a urologist, and a radiologist, as well as nurses trained to administer medications and other professionals trained to offer supportive services. Comprehensive care can combine aggressive medication and medical treatment coupled with additional services to improve overall well-being and maintain quality of life.

At Beacon Clinic, you can access multiple services under one roof, as well as a healthcare team who will work with you on an ongoing basis to create a treatment plan, coordinating all the different aspects of your care. In addition, you can obtain nutritional consultation, help with rehabilitation, financial counseling, and other supportive services, including caregiver support. In other words, our approach focuses on the whole person, not just the disease. By supporting you in every aspect of care, you can heal your body and maintain a positive outlook to help you recover faster.

We understand that a cancer diagnosis by itself can cause depression and anxiety. We also know that cancer treatments, including medications, can have physical and emotional side effects, sometimes inducing nausea, fatigue, pain, anxiety, stress, and depression. We begin offering supportive, whole-person care as soon as you enter our facility. We are with you every step of the way. 

Most people who undergo kidney cancer treatment utilizing immunotherapy, chemotherapy, or surgery end up with a good prognosis for longevity and/or recovery. We want to help you to achieve a good outcome on your terms. Call us at Beacon Clinic to learn about our treatments and supportive services. We can work through every stage of your diagnosis and treatment and help you plan your life beyond cancer.