Monitoring kidney cancer

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

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

Some people who have kidney cancer that has spread to other parts of the body but who do not have symptoms may also be offered monitoring before starting targeted therapy. Treatment will be started if monitoring shows the cancer is growing.

The main advantage of monitoring is that you will not experience the risks or side effects of treatment. If the size of the tumour or your symptoms change during monitoring, your cancer doctor or specialist nurse will talk to you about active treatment.

During monitoring you will have regular ultrasound, CT or MRI scans. The scans will look for signs that the cancer 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 cancer doctor.

Monitoring can be difficult to adjust to at first. You may find it difficult to accept that the cancer is not being treated. But 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 join a support group. The Macmillan Online Community also has a kidney cancer group.

I joined an online group and it's great. We met for lunch and it was brilliant. It helped tremendously to talk to others who understand just how you feel.


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.

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.