NCCN Guidelines for Patients
Kidney Cancer, Version 1.2017
Overview of cancer treatments
Supportive care is treatment given to relieve
symptoms of the cancer and side effects of cancer
treatment. It doesn’t treat the cancer itself. The goal
of supportive care is to improve quality of life and
relieve any discomfort you may have.
Supportive care is given at any stage of cancer,
but is often the main type of care when the cancer
is advanced. When used for advanced cancers,
supportive care is often called palliative care.
Supportive care can address many needs. Some
examples include treatment for physical and
emotional symptoms, help with treatment decisions,
and coordination of care between health care
providers. Talk with your treatment team to plan the
best supportive care for you. A few key supportive
care options for patients with kidney cancer are
described next. You will also learn about being a
cancer survivor and advance care planning. It is
helpful to talk with your doctor about your next steps
of care, whether you need physical or emotional
Radiation therapy uses a beam of high-energy rays
to kill cancer cells. Radiation therapy is not used as
a standard or primary treatment for kidney cancer.
Instead, it may be used to relieve symptoms caused
by kidney cancer that has spread (metastasized) to
distant sites in the body.
Radiation therapy is often given using a machine
outside the body. This method is called EBRT
herapy). EBRT may be
used to ease pain caused by bone metastases—
cancer that has spread to the bones. It may also be
used for brain metastases—cancer that has spread
to the brain.
Stereotactic radiosurgery is a type of EBRT that may
be used for a small or single metastasis in the brain.
Stereotactic radiosurgery delivers a high dose of
radiation to a very specific, small area of the body.
Whole brain irradiation may be used for large or
many metastases in the brain.
Drugs for bone health
When kidney cancer spreads to distant sites, it
may spread to your bones. Your bones are at an
increased risk for injury and disease when kidney
cancer spreads to them. Such problems include bone
fractures, bone pain, and squeezing (compression)
of the spinal cord. High levels of calcium in the blood,
called hypercalcemia, may also occur.
Drugs such as zoledronic acid (Zometa
), and pamidronate (Adredia
may be given to treat bone problems. These drugs
can help relieve bone pain and reduce the risk
of other bone problems. They work by slowing or
stopping bone breakdown. They also help increase
However, these drugs may cause damage to the jaw
bone—a condition called osteonecrosis. Be sure to
ask your doctor about this risk and other possible
side effects. It is also recommended that you take
these drugs with calcium and vitamin D.
Even if all the cancer can’t be removed, surgery
may be used to help with symptoms caused by the
cancer. This is called palliative surgery. Symptoms
may be from the primary tumor or cancer that has
spread to other body parts.