NCCN Guidelines for Patients
Kidney Cancer, Version 1.2017
Overview of cancer treatments
There is more than one treatment for
kidney cancer. The main types are
described on the next pages. This
information may help you use the
Treatment guide in Part 5. It may also help
you know what to expect during treatment.
Not every person with kidney cancer will
receive every treatment listed.
Surgery is an operation to remove or repair a body
part. Surgery is used as primary treatment for most
kidney cancers. Primary treatment is the main
treatment given to rid the body of cancer. Thus, the
goal of surgery is to remove all of the cancer from
your body. To do so, surgery will remove all or part
of the kidney with the tumor and maybe other nearby
There is more than one type of surgery for kidney
cancer. The type and extent of surgery you will have
depends on many factors. This includes the tumor
size, tumor location, and how much the cancer has
spread. The main types of surgery used to treat
kidney cancer are described next.
A partial nephrectomy is surgery that only removes
the part of the kidney with the tumor. With this
surgery, the healthy part of your kidney and the
nearby tissues are left in your body. It is also called
nephron-sparing or kidney-sparing surgery since it
saves (spares) as much of your kidney as possible.
The kidney can still work (function) and do its job in
the body after part of it has been removed. Thus,
a benefit of partial nephrectomy is that it preserves
kidney function. This surgery is ideal for patients
who have or are at risk for poor kidney function. This
includes patients who have only one kidney, limited
kidney function, or tumors in both kidneys. But, this
surgery is used for other patients as well.
Partial nephrectomy is often used for early-stage
kidney cancer—when the tumor is small and only in
the kidney. This surgery is the preferred treatment for
very small tumors no more than 4 cm wide. It may
also be used to treat small tumors up to 7 cm wide.
For most small tumors, a partial nephrectomy can
remove all the cancer with good long-term results.
But, the surgeon’s skill and experience is a key
Partial nephrectomy is a complex surgery. It is more
technically difficult than surgery that removes the
whole kidney. A partial nephrectomy should only be
done by an expert surgeon who does this type of
surgery often. Careful patient selection, based on
factors such as the tumor size and location, is also
important. This surgery should only be done when
the entire tumor can be safely removed, leaving the
healthy part of the kidney intact.
Before the surgery, you will be asked to stop eating,
drinking, and taking some medicines for a short
period of time. If you smoke, it is important to stop.
This surgery is done under general anesthesia—a
controlled loss of wakefulness from drugs. There is
more than one way to perform a partial nephrectomy.
The surgery methods that may be used are
described on page 31.
Risks and side effects of partial nephrectomy
With any type of surgery, there are some health
risks and side effects. A side effect is an unhealthy
or unpleasant condition caused by treatment. Some
possible side effects of a partial nephrectomy include
infections, bleeding, pain from the surgical cuts, and
urine leaking from the kidney.