Step 3: Explore Your Treatment Options.
Your doctor will explore all your options with you. It is important to understand all the risks, benefits, and long-term outcomes of each option. While right now it is difficult to imagine your cancer coming back after treatment, it is important to understand how your treatment plan might affect other treatment decisions you might need to make down the road, such as the possibility of enrolling in a clinical trial.
The time between learning you have kidney cancer to the time you will talk with the specialist about your accurate diagnosis and treatment options can be challenging and make you feel anxious. Those feelings are completely normal. Remember that you’re doing everything you can to make sure you have the most accurate diagnosis and best treatment plan for you.
Take some time to prepare for this appointment:
Write down all the questions you and your family have about what the results mean for your treatment plan.
Make plans to bring someone with you to this appointment and future appointments. Your doctor will share a lot of information with you, and a friend or loved one can help you keep track of everything. If someone cannot be there in person, call or use video chat to have them virtually sit in.
Bring a notebook with your list of questions and a pen to your appointment. You can also bring a recording device or record using your phone. That way you can go back and listen to what the doctor said after your appointment to make sure you have all the details. This is a great way to share information with your family members who couldn’t be at the appointment. Be sure to let your doctor know you are recording the conversation.
Remember, it is okay to ask the doctor to repeat what they said so you can understand better or to contact them later with a follow-up question.
Meet your treatment team
When you meet with your doctor to discuss your treatment options, you may hear your doctor describe a multidisciplinary team for your treatment. That means that different healthcare professionals with different skills and specialties will all work together to design your treatment, including the physical and emotional aspects. This approach to cancer care is very helpful and can improve cancer outcomes. Some of your care team members will be with you for the whole time, while others will be with you for only part of it.
Keep a list of names and contact information for each member of your team. This makes it easier for you and your family to know who to contact with questions.
An expert in urinary tract diseases, including kidney disease
Specializes in diagnosing cancers of the urinary tract, kidneys, and other urologic cancers and treating these cancers by removing tumors and kidneys through surgery.
Treats advanced kidney cancer in adults using drug treatments.
Treats kidney cancer using radiation therapy.
A healthcare professional who cares for a person with cancer by educating them and their family about cancer, treatment, research, and side effects. They will also prepare and administer treatments and provide supportive care.
Oncology social worker
A professional who talks to people affected by cancer to provide counseling, find help with transportation, home care, and applying for Social Security disability.
A healthcare professional who works with a doctor and supports the oncology team providing care to patients by performing medical exams, ordering tests, etc.
A healthcare professional who supports and counsels the patient and their family to help manage mental health issues that arise during your cancer journey.
Supportive care team
The supportive care, or palliative care, team works closely with other oncology team members to prevent and treat side effects and symptoms of your kidney cancer and treatments.
Treatment options for kidney cancer
It is time to understand all your treatment options, including any clinical trials you may be eligible to join. You and your doctor will discuss side effects and the time required for treatment before you agree on a plan. It is important to remember that your treatment plan can change at any time. It depends on how well the treatment is working, the side effects you are experiencing, and whether your scans have changed. If a change is needed, your doctor will discuss this with you.
Give yourself and your family time to digest all the information you received from your doctor. Make sure all your questions are answered before you decide on a treatment option. You can also seek another doctor’s opinion if you’d like.
Your treatment team will discuss all the possible risks and benefits of surgery and treatment with you so that you can make the best decision based on your unique situation. Your treatment plan may include:
Surgery may be the first step in treating your kidney cancer. It may be the only treatment you need, or surgery may be part of a more extensive treatment plan.
Surgery may be done first, or you may be given a A type of drug treatment that works throughout the body to treat cancer cells wherever they are located.systemic treatment first followed by surgery to remove the kidney tumor. Surgery could remove all or part of your kidney along with the tumor, and may include removing the adjacent adrenal gland, nearby lymph nodes, and other surrounding tissue. This is called a nephrectomy.
There are two basic types of nephrectomies:
- A partial nephrectomy removes just the part of the kidney that contains a tumor.
- A radical nephrectomy removes the entire kidney and often the adrenal gland above the kidney, the surrounding tissue, and the lymph nodes next to the kidney.
Different surgical procedures are considered depending on the tumor type, size, location, how much the cancer has spread, and your physical condition. Even if the cancer has spread, surgery may still be helpful because it removes some of the cancer. There is then less cancer to eliminate through other types of treatment.
Surgery is not an option for everyone. There are several reasons your kidney tumor with surgery may not be recommended. Your doctor will explain these reasons. You and your doctor should discuss the surgical options that are appropriate for you. It is important to ask questions during these discussions so that you and your loved ones are comfortable and agree with the treatment plan.
Systemic therapies are used to treat stage IV kidney cancer or kidney cancer that has relapsed or returned.
There are many drug treatments that can treat kidney cancer. Drug treatments are referred to as systemic therapies because they spread throughout the body to treat cancer cells wherever they are located. Treatments that stop cancer cells from growing. Each one targets a different part of the cancer cell.targeted therapies and Treatment that boost the immune system so the body can find and destroy cancer cells.immunotherapies are the most common type of systemic therapy in treating kidney cancer.
Systemic therapies can be given intravenously, which means it is given through your vein. They can also be taken by mouth. All drug treatments are approved after A type of research study that tests how safe and helpful treatments are.clinical trials confirm they are safe and effective. In the United States, the Food & Drug Administration (FDA) approves cancer treatments. Research done through clinical trials has helped to improve the lives and survival of people living with kidney cancer.
Systemic therapies are used to treat stage IV kidney cancer or kidney cancer that has The return of cancer after treatment.relapsed or returned.
Stop cancer cells from growing. These drugs block or inhibit pathways your tumor cells use to grow and spread.
Boost your immune system so your body can find and destroy cancer cells. Your immune system is your body’s natural defense against infection and disease. Immunotherapy can be given alone or with other types of treatment.
Drug Information Sheets
The KCA has developed drug information sheets for all the FDA-approved therapies for kidney cancer. If you want a more in-depth look at the different targets of targeted therapies or the different types of immunotherapy, look at the kidney cancer patient guidelines from the National Comprehensive Cancer Network (NCCN).
Your treatment team will guide you and your loved ones through your treatment. Information will be given frequently. It is important to ask questions so that you understand the treatment you’re receiving and when to call your doctor’s office with concerns about side effects. Treatment may be interrupted if your oncologist feels you need a short break to allow for side effects to improve. Sometimes the dose of treatment will be adjusted to decrease the risk of side effects occurring again. On occasion, the treatment may need to be permanently stopped due to severe side effects, and your oncologist will discuss other treatment options with you.
If your treatment plan includes immunotherapy and/or targeted therapy, a “treatment holiday” or intermittent treatment may be recommended by your doctor. As more people with cancer are receiving these types of therapies, there is an increased understanding that time off these treatments may be appropriate in certain situations.
A clinical trial tests how safe and helpful treatments are for people. Historically, people have thought clinical trials were a last resort but they can be part of your first line of treatment.
Clinical trials can help show us how to prevent, diagnose, and treat a disease like cancer. Doctors and researchers use clinical trials to understand what works and doesn’t work to treat cancer, if a treatment can manage symptoms, and what side effects it has. Clinical trials can help determine how to improve treatment options and if new drugs are effective in treating specific cancers. They are designed to answer specific research questions that no one knows the answer to yet. Every discovery and advancement made in the treatment of kidney cancer has been made possible because of patients participating in clinical trials.
You can talk to your doctor about participating in a clinical trial at any point. If you are considering volunteering to join a trial, it is important to understand the risks and benefits. One of the benefits is that you may get access to a newer treatment or combination of treatment that might be more effective than what is currently available as the standard of care. A risk is that unknown side effects may occur or the treatment may not improve your kidney cancer. Participation in a clinical trial is not a guarantee of treatment success. However, the findings improve the knowledge about kidney cancer and treatments, and they can help improve and prolong the lives of future patients.
To learn more about the phases of clinical trials, how to find a clinical trial enrolling near you, and more information about what being a participant in clinical research means, check out the Clinical Trials page.
Observation or active surveillance
Observation or A treatment plan that closely watches a health condition.active surveillance means that your kidney cancer is being closely watched.
Your treatment team will plan a regular testing schedule for you. This could include imaging tests, such as a CT, MRI, or ultrasound. Your treatment team looks for any changes in tumor growth or new tumors that may mean the cancer has returned and it is time to start treatment.
Active surveillance may be used for patients with very small, stage 1 tumors that have not spread or for advanced kidney cancer that does not yet require systemic treatment. It could also be an option for older patients or those with other health conditions who can’t undergo treatment. For some people, the risks of cancer treatment side effects may be more dangerous than the cancer.
Radiation therapy uses high-energy rays or particles to kill cancer cells.
It is sometimes used to treat kidney cancer if the person is not a good candidate for surgery. Radiation therapy may be used to help control symptoms from cancer that has spread to other areas, particularly the bone, brain, or spine. Radiation therapy can be particularly helpful for decreasing pain if the cancer has spread to the bone or spine.
Supportive or palliative care
Supportive care, also known as Care given to improve the quality of life of patients who have a serious or life-threatening disease.palliative care, can help you and your family deal with the physical, emotional, and practical challenges of kidney cancer.
It can help relieve symptoms and improve the quality of your life. Supportive care uses a team of doctors, nurses, pharmacists, social workers, psychologists, religious leaders, and other healthcare professionals to work with you and your family.
Supportive care specialists may be involved early in your treatment plan to help manage symptoms related to your kidney cancer. This can help you tolerate the systemic therapies that are being used to treat your kidney cancer. They are an important part of your treatment team and can improve the quality of your life.
Supportive care providers consider physical, Having to do with mental, emotional, social, and spiritual effects of a disease, such as cancerpsychosocial, and spiritual factors when designing a treatment. Some of the important elements of supportive care are:
- Managing side effects, such as nausea, pain, fatigue, or decreased appetite
- Focusing on family and work life
- Maintaining nutrition and exercise
- Navigating practical matters such as health insurance or treatment coverage
- Helping with the emotional stress of your cancer diagnosis
It is a common misconception that supportive care is just for end of life. You can still receive your kidney cancer treatments along with supportive care. While supportive care can transition into A program that gives special care to people who are near the end of their life and have stopped curative treatments.hospice care if it is needed, it is useful at any stage of your cancer journey. Supportive care is recommended for all people living with kidney cancer. Many oncology departments have palliative or supportive care specialists on staff. They work with patients and their families to ensure better quality of life and provide emotional support.
How do you make a treatment decision?
The most important thing you can do as a person living with kidney cancer is to ask questions and share the decision-making process with your healthcare team.
There are many ways to treat kidney cancer. Your doctor will discuss your treatment plan including why it was recommended for you, the pros and cons, and the known side effects. Your treatment plan will be largely based on the stage of your kidney cancer, will outline the recommended follow up test, and how often you will need to be monitored.
Having all this information is the best way to understand and agree on a treatment plan that provides a successful outcome and meets your personal goals.
Always remember to advocate for what you need.