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Kidney Cancer

Each year, about 65,000 new cases of renal carcinoma, the most common type of kidney cancer, are diagnosed. With our unmatched expertise, we’re helping more and more people right here overcome it.

With proper action, kidney cancer survival rates are approaching 80% — encouraging news for the people and families of Northeast Wisconsin facing this serious disease. At Green Bay Oncology, our specialists have the expert knowledge and treatment technologies that allow us to provide individualized plans for the optimal outcome. And it’s all locally available.

In addition to having more cancer-fighting doctors and more depth of experience than any other provider in the region, Green Bay Oncology is one of only two participants in the National Cancer Institute’s Community Oncology Research Program in the region. We conduct national-level clinical trials for kidney cancer right here in our communities.

Kidney cancer diagnosis

Kidney cancer begins in the cells of the kidneys, with many patients noting blood in their urine, a pain or lump in their back or along the sides of their abdomen, and unexplained weight loss. As with any cancer, early diagnosis gives patients the best chance of a positive outcome.

Because prescreening is generally not part of a routine physical exam, kidney cancer is often discovered “accidentally” during testing for some other disease such as gall bladder. More family doctors are turning to prescreening for their patients in high-risk groups, using ultrasounds, CT, MRI or PET scans, blood tests, X-rays and other tests to detect cancer at its earliest stages.

Often a biopsy of the mass is not essential. Many times the diagnosis is made based on the appearance of the growth on a CT scan. The diagnosis is confirmed once the tumor is removed by surgery.

We encourage you to empower yourself with knowledge, and the Internet can provide valuable reference materials. The key is to know that the information is coming from reputable sources. We recommend the American Society of Clinical Oncology, National Cancer Institute, and  American Cancer Society.

To learn more about kidney cancer treatment options, schedule a consultation with one of our specialists.

Why does kidney cancer occur?

Most cases of kidney cancer remain unexplained and sporadic, striking some people and not others. Certain factors that have been linked to the development of kidney cancer, though not proven, include: smoking, obesity, hypertension, occupational exposure to toxic compounds (especially in patients with genetic predisposition), cystic diseases of the kidney, and prior radiation exposure.

How is kidney cancer treated?

As with most cancers, kidney cancer can be treated through a variety of means, depending on the stage and other patient factors. The cancer specialists at Green Bay Oncology are experts in developing an individualized plan for each patient, basing treatment on specific circumstances rather than generalized conditions.

For more information on the specific treatments we’ve developed for kidney cancer, we invite you to contact us and schedule an appointment.


The preferred treatment for early or locally advanced kidney cancer, surgery may also be considered in the advanced or metastatic stage. For those with a large tumor and good kidney function, a radical nephrectomy removes the entire kidney and a few neighboring lymph nodes. When the cancer involves a small tumor located away from the center of the kidney, a partial nephrectomy may be appropriate.

Local Procedures:

In patients who are not able to undergo surgery, small tumors may potentially be treated with local therapies that either burn the cancer (radio frequency ablation) or freeze the cancer (cryotherapy).

Radiation Therapy:

Radiation to kill cancerous cells often follows surgery. It can improve chances of survival and reduce the chance that the cancer will spread. External radiation delivers treatment from a machine outside of the body. Internal radiation sends radioactive seeds directly to the kidney.


If cancer has spread beyond the kidneys to the lymph nodes or to other parts of the body, we may recommend chemotherapy. Taken orally or intravenously, chemotherapy attacks cancerous cells.

Immune Therapy:

Medications that trigger the immune system can be used to combat the cancer cells. Products such as interleukin 2 (IL-2) can produce long-term cancer control in 5-10% of patients, but can also cause side effects. It is only recommended for those who are healthy enough to tolerate its effects.

Targeted Therapy:

These drugs target cancerous cells and have fewer side effects than chemotherapy. Targeted therapy does not offer a cure for kidney cancer but can prolong the life of the patient.

Anti-Hormonal Therapy:

These drugs target vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF), cutting off blood vessel growth to tumors. They cannot cure kidney cancer, but may allow the individual to live longer and with less cancer symptoms.

Clinical Trials:

New treatment options are continually being developed. As the region’s only participant in the National Cancer Institute’s Community Oncology Research Program, we conduct national-level clinical trials here in our communities and help to identify new ways to detect, diagnose, and treat cancer.

Types of treatment by stage of kidney cancer

Staging indicates the advancement and severity of a patient’s cancer. Our experts will use this information to determine the appropriate course of treatment.

stage 1

Stage 1 – The tumor is small and is confined to the kidney.

Surgery is recommended at this stage, either removing the cancerous portion of the kidney or the entire kidney.

stage 2

Stage 2 – The tumor is larger and is still confined to the kidney.

Surgery is recommended at this stage, either removing the cancerous portion of the kidney or the entire kidney.

stage 3

Stage 3 – The tumor is either growing in a major vein or has spread to nearby lymph nodes.

Surgery is recommended at this stage, either removing the cancerous portion of the kidney or the entire kidney.

stage 4

Stage 4 – The tumor may be in nearby glands, lymph nodes and/or other organs.

Surgery may still be an option. If the cancer has spread beyond the kidney, then systemic treatments, like targeted therapies or chemotherapy, most likely will be recommended. Patients at this stage often take part in clinical trials to have access to promising treatments in the research phases.


For more information on kidney cancer and related treatment options, we recommend the following resources:

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