Kidney Cancer Treatments

Surgery is the most common treatment for kidney cancer. This kind of surgery is also called nephrectomy, meaning removal of the kidney. The body is able to function with only one kidney. There are different types of nephrectomy, including:

  • Radical nephrectomy: The whole kidney is removed with adrenal gland, surrounding tissue and sometimes the lymph nodes.
  • Simple nephrectomy: One kidney is removed.
  • Partial nephrectomy: The tumor-containing part of the kidney is removed.

Other treatments for kidney cancer include:

  • Targeted therapy: Different from chemotherapy drugs, targeted therapy drugs attack specific parts of cancer cells. This is the most common treatment for advanced kidney cancer.
  • Immunotherapy: Immunotherapy uses the body's immune system to fight the disease.
  • Radiation therapy: Radiation therapy uses high-energy X-rays kill cancer cells and help relieve pain if cancer has spread to the bones.
  • Arterial embolization: A procedure to clog the main renal blood vessel in which pieces of a gelatin sponge are injected via a catheter. This deprives the tumor of oxygen-rich blood and helps shrink it. Arterial embolization can also be used prior to surgery or to relieve pain when the tumor is inoperable.
  • Chemotherapy: Often, kidney cancer is resistant to chemotherapy.


Northwestern Medicine offers a variety of advanced treatments and therapies for kidney cancer.