Kidney cancer

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Arterial embolization for kidney cancer

A kidney tumour needs blood to grow. Arterial embolization is a procedure that blocks the blood supply to the kidney tumour. It can help shrink a kidney tumour. Arterial embolization may be used:

  • to relieve pain or to control the symptoms of advanced kidney cancer (called palliative treatment)
  • before surgery to reduce bleeding from a large tumour during surgery

Arterial embolization is used as palliative treatment for people who are not well enough to have surgery. It is rarely used before surgery because of advances in surgical procedures.

Arterial embolization is done in the x-ray department of a hospital. The doctor places a thin tube (called a catheter) into the large blood vessel in the groin. The catheter is then moved up through the blood vessel, toward the abdomen, until it reaches the renal artery that supplies the kidney with blood. The doctor then injects special gelatin sponges through the catheter into the artery. These sponges get bigger and become solid. This blocks the flow of blood to the kidney tumour. Without nutrients and oxygen from the blood, the kidney tumour will shrink.

Side effects

Side effects can happen with any type of treatment for kidney cancer, but everyone’s experience is different. Some people have many side effects. Other people have few or none at all.

Side effects can develop any time during, immediately after or a few days or weeks after arterial embolization. Sometimes late side effects develop months or years after arterial embolization Most side effects of arterial embolization will go away on their own.

Tell your healthcare team if you have these side effects or others you think might be from arterial embolization. The sooner they are aware of any problems, the sooner they can suggest ways to help you deal with them.


Stephanie Hermsen Thanks to the incredible progress in retinoblastoma research made possible by Canadian Cancer Society funding, my son won’t have to go through what I did.

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