Taking on cancer isn’t easy for anyone. At Central Maine Healthcare, we want to help you in your fight. We provide the highest-quality kidney cancer care, from advanced imaging, to a full range of treatment options and support services.
After your diagnosis, the first step in creating your treatment plan will be to determine what stage your cancer is. Stage 1 is least severe and stage 4 is most. Understanding the size of the tumor and how far the cancer has spread helps your doctor understand how to treat the cancer and how successful that treatment may be.
Surgery for Kidney Cancer
Usually surgery will be the first step and is frequently the only intervention needed. Because we have two kidneys, it’s possible to live a full and healthy life with only one. You doctor may remove some or all of a kidney to treat your cancer.
Total Nephrectomy is the most common surgery done for kidney cancer. It removes the entire kidney, and occasionally the adrenal gland and surrounding tissue. A total nephrectomy can be done with a hand-assisted laparoscopic approach, which involves a few small incisions.
Partial Nephrectomy is removal of just the tumor, leaving as much normal kidney tissue as possible. This is done in some cases when the patient has a smaller tumor and it is in a favorable location within the kidney.
If both kidneys must be removed, or if neither of them is working, you may need dialysis. Dialysis is using a machine to clean your blood the way a healthy kidney normally would. Or if your cancer has not spread outside your kidneys, you may be able to have a kidney transplant, if a donated kidney is available.
Options in Addition to Surgery
Surgery isn’t the only way to manage kidney cancer.
Immunotherapy stimulates your body’s natural defenses (also known as your immune system) to boost your ability to fight cancer. It involves substances made by your body or in a lab. These substances are man-made versions of natural proteins that can reduce the size of kidney cancers in a small percentage of patients. This is generally only employed in cases where the tumor has spread to other parts of the body and surgery would not be curative.
Cryotherapy uses an external probe, often guided by a radiologist using ultrasound, to freeze and kill the tumor. This is often a good option for small tumors in patients who do not want or cannot tolerate surgery.
Arterial embolization is a procedure that stops blood supply to a tumor in the kidney. It may be used before surgery to reduce bleeding from a large tumor, to relive pain or to control other symptoms.
Radiofrequency ablation “cooks” a tumor with high-energy radio waves and is similar to cryoablation.
Radiation therapy uses high energy x-rays or other types of radiation to kill cancer cells or stop them from growing. A machine sends these x-rays into your body and to the cancer. In kidney cancer, radiation therapy is often used to help with symptoms in patients who cannot have surgery.
Chemotherapy is less effective for treatment of kidney cancer than for some other cancers. It uses anti-cancer drugs which may be injected into the vein or taken by mouth as pills. These drugs kill the cancer cells or stop them from growing. It works best on kidney cancer which contains spindle cells known as sarcomatoid variant.
Support for Healing the Whole You
Dealing with cancer treatment can be difficult. At Central Maine Healthcare we offer many different support services to help you fight the disease. Our nurse navigators assist you through the entire process of diagnosis, treatment and recovery. And our social workers can connect you with the counseling and information you and your family need to manage the emotional, spiritual, financial and practical needs that come with a cancer diagnosis.