Arterial embolisation for kidney cancer

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. It can help control symptoms, such as pain or bleeding.

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

How embolisation is done

You may need to stay in hospital overnight, or possibly for a day or two longer. 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. The doctor injects a substance, such as tiny beads, through the catheter into the artery, which blocks the blood supply to the cancer.

Tumour embolisation
Tumour embolisation

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Close-up of tumour embolisation
Close-up of tumour embolisation

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Side effects of embolisation

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.

Back to Treating

Decisions about treatment

Your doctors may tell you there are different options for your treatment. Having the right information will help you make the right decision for you.

Surgery for kidney cancer

Surgery involves removing all or part of the cancer with an operation. It is an important treatment for many cancers.

Monitoring kidney cancer

Sometimes, active treatment may not be immediately necessary or appropriate. Doctors may suggest monitoring small, low-grade cancers.

Targeted (biological) therapies

Targeted (biological) therapies interfere with the way cells grow and divide. Find out how they may be used to treat kidney (renal) cancer.

Immunotherapies for kidney cancer

Immunotherapy drugs encourage the body’s immune system to fight cancer cells. It is sometimes used to treat types of advanced kidney cancer.

Radiotherapy for kidney cancer

Radiotherapy uses high-energy rays to destroy cancer cells. It may relieve symptoms caused by kidney cancer that has spread to other parts of the body.

Clinical trials

Many people are offered a trial as part of treatment. Find out more to help you decide if a trial is right for you.

Life after cancer treatment

You might be thinking about how to get back to normal following treatment. Find advice, information and support about coping with and after cancer.