Follow-up after treatment for kidney cancer

Follow-up after treatment is an important part of cancer care. Follow-up for kidney cancer is often shared among the cancer specialists (called oncologists), your urologist and your family doctor. Your healthcare team will work with you to decide on follow-up care to meet your needs.

Don’t wait until your next scheduled appointment to report any new symptoms and symptoms that don’t go away. Tell your healthcare team if you have:

  • headache
  • changes in your memory or reasoning
  • a cough that won’t go away

The chance of kidney cancer recurring is greatest within 3 years, so close follow-up is needed during this time. Kidney cancer can recur a long time after treatment is finished, so it’s important to continue to see your healthcare team regularly.

Schedule for follow-up visits

Follow-up visits for kidney cancer are usually scheduled:

  • 4–6 weeks after initial surgery
  • 3 months and 6 months after the end of targeted therapy
  • every 6 months for 3 years, then once a year until 6 years after the end of treatment

During follow-up visits

During a follow-up visit, your healthcare team will usually ask questions about the side effects of treatment and how you’re coping. They may also ask about your diet and lifestyle.

Your doctor may do a physical exam and feel your abdomen, side and lower back. Your doctor will also check your surgical scar to see how well it is healing or if there are any changes to it.

Tests are often part of follow-up care. You may have:

  • kidney function tests to make sure that your remaining kidney is healthy
  • liver function tests to check for any problems with your liver that could mean that the cancer has recurred in the liver
  • abdominal ultrasound to check the remaining kidney to make sure it is healthy and working
  • CT scan to check the remaining kidney and to look for any changes or a recurrence in the abdomen, including the liver
  • chest x-ray to see if the cancer has recurred in the lungs

Some people treated for kidney cancer may need to have follow-up tests more often than other people. This includes people who have a moderate or high risk of recurrence because they have large tumours, cancer that has spread to the lymph nodes or both.

If a recurrence is found, your healthcare team will assess you to determine the best treatment options.

Questions to ask about follow-up

To make the decisions that are right for you, ask your healthcare team questions about follow-up.