Being diagnosed with kidney cancer can be scary. Your kidneys are, of course, a vital organ, and without them, you won't have a way to clean your blood. Some patients with later-stage kidney cancer do need surgery. However, if your kidney cancer is in the earlier stages, there is a good chance your oncology team will recommend treating it non-surgically. Here's what that might look like.
Radiofrequency ablation is a medical procedure that uses radio waves to destroy certain tissues. In the case of kidney cancer, a tiny needle will be inserted through your skin and into the tumor. Radio waves will then be conducted through that needle. They'll vibrate at just the right wavelength to kill the tumor cells. This procedure is generally done under a regional anesthetic, so the area being worked on will be numb, but you will be awake. You'll need to have each tumor ablated, so it can take several hours. RF ablation is often used when patients only have a few isolated tumors.
Another way of ablating, or killing, cancerous tumors in the kidneys is called cryoablation. This method uses cold conduction to freeze and kill the cancerous cells within your tumors. Your practitioner will use an ultrasound machine to guide an instrument that gives off a very cold "current" through a tiny incision and toward the tumors. Once the instrument is in place, the probe at the end will become very cold, essentially freezing the tumor. Your body will eject the dead cancer cells in the days that follow. While this treatment is somewhat invasive, it is not surgical, and it is done under a local or regional anesthetic.
Immunotherapy is often used with one of the treatments above. Basically, you will take medications that empower your own immune system to fight off the cancerous cells. Most immunotherapy medications are given via an IV during treatment sessions at a hospital. Some, however, are pills that you take daily at home. In either case, your body's own antibodies will begin attacking any cancer cells that have broken off from the tumors or are left behind after the tumors are ablated. Immunotherapy does have some side effects, such as chills and a fever, but it's quite effective in treating many kidney cancers.
Non-surgical treatment of kidney cancer has come a long way and is likely what your doctor will recommend for most mild to moderate cases. Discuss the options above with a company such as Alaska Oncology and Hematology LLC.