Arterial embolisation for kidney cancer

Arterial embolisation is when a substance is injected into a blood vessel (artery) in the kidney. This can shrink the tumour by stopping the blood supply.

What is arterial embolisation?

Arterial embolisation is when a substance is injected into a blood vessel (artery) in the kidney, to block the blood supply to the cancer. This reduces the supply of oxygen and nutrients to the tumour, which can make it shrink or stop growing.

Arterial embolisation cannot cure the cancer by itself. But it can help control symptoms, such as pain or bleeding.

You may be offered arterial embolisation if an operation is not possible for you.

Having arterial embolisation for kidney cancer

Before treatment, the nurse or doctor usually gives you a mild sedative to help you relax. They then inject some local anaesthetic into the skin at the top of the leg (the groin) to numb the area.

A doctor puts a thin, plastic tube (catheter) into a blood vessel in the groin. Using x-ray pictures as a guide, they thread the catheter upwards until the tip is in the artery that carries blood to the area of the kidney where the cancer is.

They then inject a substance, such as tiny beads, through the catheter into the artery. This blocks the blood supply to the cancer.

 

Tumour embolisation
Image: Tumour embolisation
Close-up of tumour embolisation
Image: Close-up of tumour embolisation

Side effects of arterial embolisation for kidney cancer

This treatment can sometimes cause pain in the back. Your doctor will give you painkillers to take regularly for a few days.

You may feel a little unwell for the first few days and have a slightly raised temperature. You will probably also be tired.

Going home after arterial embolisation

After arterial embolisation, you may need to stay in hospital overnight, or possibly for a day or two longer, depending on how quickly you recover.

Your surgeon or nurse can tell you when you can start doing everyday activities again.

Before you leave hospital, you will be given an appointment for a check-up. This will be at an outpatient clinic. Your doctor or nurse may also arrange for you to have a CT scan to see the result of the treatment.

You will have regular follow-up scans to check the kidney for any signs of the cancer growing back.

About our information

  • References

    Below is a sample of the sources used in our kidney cancer information. If you would like more information about the sources we use, please contact us at cancerinformationteam@macmillan.org.uk

    Escudier B, et al. Renal cell carcinoma: ESMO Clinical Practice Guidelines for diagnosis, treatment and follow-up. Annals of Oncology 30: 706-720, 2019. doi:10.1093/annonc/mdz056 Published online 21 February 2019. Available from www.annalsofoncology.org/action/showPdf?pii=S0923-7534%2819%2931157-3 (accessed April 2021).

    European Association of Urology. Renal cell carcinoma guidelines. EAU Guidelines. Edn. presented at the EAU Annual Congress Milan 2021. ISBN 978-94-92671-13-4. Available from www.uroweb.org/guideline/renal-cell-carcinoma (accessed April 2021).

    National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE): Nivolumab with ipilimumab for untreated advanced renal cell carcinoma. Technology appraisal guidance (TA581). Published 15 May 2019. Available from www.nice.org.uk/guidance/ta581 (accessed April 2021).

  • Reviewers

    This information has been written, revised and edited by Macmillan Cancer Support’s Cancer Information Development team. It has been reviewed by expert medical and health professionals and people living with cancer. It has been approved by Senior Medical Editor, Dr Lisa Pickering, Consultant Medical Oncologist.

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