Monitoring kidney cancer

Kidney cancers vary a great deal in how fast- or slow-growing they are. Some low-grade kidney cancers grow very slowly.

Monitoring is an option for some people with very small (less than 3cm) low-grade kidney cancers. It is a way of delaying treatment until it is definitely needed. It’s most likely to be offered to people who already have health problems which would increase the risks of surgery. Because the cancer is slow-growing it may not cause them any problems in their lifetime.

Some people who have kidney cancer that has spread to other parts of the body but who don’t have symptoms may be offered monitoring before starting targeted therapy.

The main advantage of monitoring is that you won’t experience the risks or side effects of treatment unless it is absolutely necessary. If the size of the tumour or your symptoms change during monitoring, your specialist will tell you when it is time to think about active treatment.

You will need to have a biopsy taken from the tumour in your kidney before the doctors can decide if monitoring is appropriate for you. This is to check that the tumour is low grade and so is likely to grow very slowly.

During monitoring you will have regular ultrasound, CT or MRI scans to check the tumour in your kidney. The scans will look for signs that the tumour is growing.

Before deciding whether monitoring is right for you, make sure you understand why it is recommended. If you have any concerns, talk to your doctor.

Although monitoring can be difficult to adjust to at first, many people find it gets easier as time goes on. Sharing your feelings can help. As well as talking with family and friends, you may want to keep a journal, or to join a support group or the kidney cancer group of our online community.

Back to Treating

Making treatment decisions

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

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.