Radiation therapy uses high energy x-rays to destroy cancer cells and shrink tumors. In general, radiation therapy is not useful for treating kidney cancer. However, it may be used before surgery to shrink cancer tissue, after surgery to try to make sure all cancer cells are destroyed, or as an alternative for people who can not tolerate surgery. Radiation therapy may also be used to ease pain or other symptoms caused by tumors in other areas of the body.
There are different types of radiation therapy, but external beam radiation is used to treat kidney cancer. In external beam radiation therapy, radiation is produced by a machine positioned outside the body. Short bursts of x-rays are directed at the cancer. The radiation oncologist will direct the radiation beam to deliver as much radiation to the tumor as possible with as little damage to healthy tissue as possible.
A variety of treatments are available to help manage side effects of radiation therapy, such as dry, irritated skin, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and fatigue due to anemia. Sometimes adjustments to treatment doses may also be possible. The earlier side effects are addressed, the more likely they will be controlled with a minimum of discomfort.
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Kidney cancer (adult)—renal cell carcinoma. American Cancer Society website. Available at: http://www.cancer.org/acs/groups/cid/documents/webcontent/003107-pdf.pdf. Accessed January 3, 2017.
Renal cell carcinoma. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at:http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T114704/Renal-cell-carcinoma. Updated March 14, 2016. Accessed January 3, 2017.
Renal cell carcinoma. Merck Manual Professional Version website. Available at: http://www.merckmanuals.com/professional/genitourinary-disorders/genitourinary-cancer/renal-cell-carcinoma. Updated November 2013. Accessed January 3, 2017.
Treatment options for renal cell cancer. National Cancer Institute website. Available at: http://www.cancer.gov/types/kidney/patient/kidney-treatment-pdq#section/_93. Updated December 23, 2016. Accessed January 3, 2017.
Last reviewed December 2016 by Mohei Abouzied, MD Last Updated: 12/29/2015