In order to confirm a diagnosis of kidney cancer a number of tests can be performed. Some of the more common tests include: examination of a blood sample or urine sample, scanning or imaging of the kidney and nearby organs and taking a sample of tissue (biopsy) from the affected kidney wall for examination under a microscope.
If kidney cancer is diagnosed, treatment will depend on how large and invasive the cancer is, and whether it has spread to nearby organs.
Treatment options can include:
- Surgery to remove part or the entire affected kidney.
- Radiotherapy and/or chemotherapy.
- Targeted therapies to destroy cancer cells.
Most commonly, surgery is used to treat kidney cancer and often it is the only treatment needed. Sometimes only part of the kidney is removed, so that the organ’s function is preserved. At other times, when cancer is more advanced, the whole kidney may be removed.
During the surgery, the doctor may remove nearby lymph nodes to examine them for cancer cells. Doctors will examine the cells of the tumour to determine which type of cancer is present.
Chemotherapy is sometimes used in addition to surgery; however conventional renal cell cancer is not responsive to this treatment.
Transitional cell carcinoma is responsive to chemotherapy. When this form of cancer is found on the surface of the renal pelvis or ureter, it may be treated by laser surgery, which uses a narrow beam of light to remove cancer cells.
Immunotherapies, which use substances that stimulate the body’s immune system, may be used to treat kidney tumours that have invaded other parts of the body.
Additionally, radiation therapy is sometimes used as the primary treatment if a patient is not well enough to undergo surgery.