Treatment for advanced kidney cancer
When kidney cancer has spread outside the kidney to lymph nodes or other parts of the body (stage 3 or 4), it’s known as advanced or metastatic cancer. The aim of treatment is to slow the spread of the cancer and to manage any symptoms.
A combination of different treatments may be recommended. Which combination is suitable for you will depend on several factors, including how soon after diagnosis you start systemic treatment, blood counts, blood calcium levels and your general health.
Learn more about:
- Systemic treatment
- Active surveillance
- Targeted therapy
- Radiation therapy
- Palliative treatment
Drugs that reach cancer cells throughout the body are called systemic treatments. These can include chemotherapy, targeted therapy and immunotherapy.
Targeted therapy and immunotherapy are the main systemic treatments used to control advanced kidney cancer. The types of drugs and combinations used are rapidly changing as clinical trials show better responses and improved survival with newer drugs. Since the development of these more effective systemic treatments, chemotherapy is rarely used for kidney cancer.
Talk with your doctor about the latest developments and whether you are a suitable candidate. Ask them about the side effects you might have. Most side effects can be managed, and treating them early is likely to reduce how long side effects last.
The Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS) subsidises the cost of targeted therapy or immunotherapy drugs as long as certain criteria are met. Medicines or treatments that are not on the PBS are usually very expensive unless given as part of a clinical trial.
In some cases, kidney cancer grows so slowly that it won’t cause any problems for a long time. Because of this, especially if the advanced kidney cancer has been found unexpectedly, your doctor may suggest looking at the cancer regularly, usually with CT scans. This approach is known as active surveillance or observation.
If the cancer starts to grow quickly or cause symptoms, active treatment will be recommended.
A/Prof Daniel Moon, Urologic Surgeon, Australian Urology Associates, and Honorary Clinical Associate Professor, The University of Melbourne, VIC; Polly Baldwin, 13 11 20 Consultant, Cancer Council SA; Ian Basey, Consumer; Gregory Bock, Urology Cancer Nurse Coordinator, WA Cancer and Palliative Care Network, North Metropolitan Health Service, WA; Tina Forshaw, Advanced Practice Nurse Urology, Canberra Health Services, ACT; Dr Suki Gill, Radiation Oncologist, Sir Charles Gairdner Hospital, WA; Karen Walsh, Nurse Practitioner, Urology Services, St Vincents Private Hospital Northside, QLD; Dr Alison Zhang, Medical Oncologist, Chris O’Brien Lifehouse and Macquarie University Hospital, NSW.
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