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There are several ways of treating kidney cancer, and the chosen method depends on the stage of the cancer as well as the overall health of the patient. The patient's preferences are considered as well. The most frequently used method of all the kidney cancer treatments is surgery. This treatment is localized, treating the tumor or tumors in the affected kidney.
The surgery used to remove the kidney or tumor is referred to as a nephrectomy. A radical nephrectomy removes the whole kidney and the adrenal gland as well as some of the surrounding tissue; lymph nodes may be removed as well. A simple nephrectomy is used to remove the kidney only, a surgery that is most often used in patients whose cancer is small and confined to the kidney. A partial nephrectomy is used to remove the tumor from the kidney; it can only be used for patients with tumors that are smaller than 1.5 inches (4 centimeters).
Arterial embolization is a method used to shrink a tumor; it is one of the more localized forms of kidney cancer treatments. This method may be used before surgery to make the operation easier or it may be used to relieve symptoms when surgery is not an option. It involves inserting a narrow tube, called a catheter, into a blood vessel and injecting a substance that works to block blood flow to the kidney. This has the effect of cutting off the kidney's oxygen supply and preventing its growth.
Another one of the most common kidney cancer treatments is radiation therapy. This is another localized treatment method that uses radiation to destroy the cells that cause cancer. Typically, this method requires treatment for several weeks. It may be used to shrink a tumor before surgery or catch lingering cancer cells following it. It may also be used for symptom relief in patients who cannot have surgery.
Biological therapy is one of the kidney cancer treatments that can help cancer that has spread beyond the initially affected kidney. For this method, a substance, like interferon alpha or interleukin-2, is placed in the bloodstream and allowed to travel and affect cancerous cells throughout the body. Essentially, this method uses the immune system to help fight the cancer.
Chemotherapy is another of the most commonly used kidney cancer treatments. It can be used to treat cancer that has spread outside the kidneys. This method places cancer-fighting medications into the patient's bloodstream and allows them to travel through the body. Unfortunately, this may not be as effective as some of the other kidney cancer treatments, as the currently available drugs seem to have a somewhat limited effect on tumors of the kidneys. However, studies are underway that may help to reveal new medications for making chemotherapy more effective.
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