How is kidney cancer treated?

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About 9 out of 10 kidney cancers are renal cell cancer (RCC) - also known as renal cell adenocarcinoma or clear cell renal cell cancer.  The treatment we describe on these pages is mostly for renal cell cancer. Talk to your team to find out more about other, less common kidney cancers as the tests and treatment may not be the same.


Surgery is the main treatment for kidney cancer that hasn’t spread. Surgery aims to remove the tumour. Early-stage kidney cancer is often cured by surgery alone. More about surgery for kidney cancer.


This means monitoring abnormal areas like very small lumps in your kidney with regular CT scans.  Often these lumps (called small renal masses by doctors) need no treatment and cause you no symptoms or harm.

Your doctor will talk to you about surveillance if they think it is the best option for you. Surveillance may also be recommended if you have other medical conditions that mean it is better for you to avoid surgery.

Other treatments

If surgery is not recommended or possible for you, your doctor may discuss one of the treatments below:

Thermal ablation

This treatment uses heat to destroy the cancer cells. It can be used for certain types of small kidney tumours, or if you are not fit for surgery. It is sometimes used to help symptoms from advanced kidney cancers too. More about thermal ablation.

Targeted therapies

There are many different types of targeted therapies. In kidney cancer these are drugs that work by stopping the cancer from making new blood vessels. More about targeted therapies.


This treatment uses high-energy waves to kill cancer cells. Read more about radiotherapy.


This treatment can be used to block the flow of blood to kidney cancer. It may be used to help control bleeding in more advanced cancer. Sometimes it is used before surgery. More about embolisation.

Will I get side-effects?

The type of side-effects you get will depend on the type of treatment, the dose, the duration and your own general health. 

Ask your doctor or nurse about any possible side-effects before your treatment starts. You can read about the different treatments to find out more about possible side-effects. We also have information to help you cope with side-effects and symptoms.  

Treating kidney cancer that has spread (metastatic kidney cancer)

If your cancer has spread, treatment is usually to try to control the cancer rather than to cure it. Targeted therapy drugs are often used to keep metastatic kidney cancer under control. Or you may have arterial embolisation or radiotherapy to relieve symptoms. You may also have surgery. Read about these treatments

For more information

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