Kidney cancer

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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 (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:

  • headaches
  • changes in your memory
  • a cough that won’t go away

The chance that kidney cancer will come back (recur) is greatest within 3 years, so you will need close follow-up during this time. Kidney cancer can come back 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 for 6 years after treatment:

  • every 3 to 6 months after initial treatment for 3 years
  • once a year after 3 years

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, including:

  • feeling your abdomen, side and lower back
  • checking your surgical scar to see how it is healing or if there are any changes to it

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

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

You may need to have follow-up tests more often if you have a moderate or high risk of recurrence if you have large tumours or cancer that has spread to the lymph nodes or both.

If the cancer has come back, you and your healthcare team will discuss a plan for your treatment and care.

Questions to ask about follow-up

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