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Kidney cancer

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Treatments for stage I kidney cancer

The following are treatment options for stage I kidney cancer. Your healthcare team will suggest treatments based on your needs and work with you to develop a treatment plan.


Surgery is the standard treatment for stage I kidney cancer. You will be offered one of the following surgeries.

Partial nephrectomy removes the tumour and a margin of healthy tissue around it. This surgery is done to keep as much kidney as possible. Surgeons use this type of nephrectomy to have the kidney work as normally as possible and maintain your quality of life.

Radical nephrectomy removes the whole kidney, the ureter attached to the kidney and the layer of fat around the kidney. The adrenal gland is often removed as well. A radical nephrectomy may be done if the tumour can’t be removed with a partial nephrectomy.

Simple nephrectomy removes the whole kidney and the attached ureter, but not the adrenal gland or surrounding lymph nodes. This surgery may be offered for very small tumours (smaller than 3 cm).

The surgeon can use different approaches to do surgery. An open approach means the surgery is done through a large incision, or surgical cut, in the abdomen. With the laparoscopic approach, the surgeon makes small cuts to place a laparoscope (a thin, tube-like instrument with a light and lens) and other tools in the abdomen.

Arterial embolization

A kidney tumour needs blood to grow. Arterial embolization is a procedure that blocks the blood supply to a kidney tumour. It can help shrink a kidney tumour and relieve symptoms. You may be offered this procedure if you aren’t well enough to have surgery.

Ablation therapy

Ablation therapies use heat or cold to destroy the kidney tumour. You may be offered ablation therapy if you are not well to have surgery or if you only have one working kidney.

Radiation therapy

If you aren’t well enough to have surgery, you may be offered external beam radiation therapy. This treatment can help shrink the tumour and relieve symptoms.

Clinical trials

You may be asked if you want to join a clinical trial for kidney cancer. Find out more about clinical trials.


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