Kidney cancer FAQs

What is kidney cancer?

Around 9,000 people in the UK (more men than women) are diagnosed with kidney cancer every year. This number is slowly increasing, possibly because other scans are detecting tumours that would otherwise have been unrecognised.

90% of kidney cancers are renal cell cancers – tumours in the small tubes within the kidney substance. Transitional cell cancers start in the renal pelvis lining (the part of the kidney that collects the urine and transports it towards the bladder).

Less common kidney cancers include papillary and collecting duct renal cancer.

What kidney cancer treatments are available at the Royal Free London?

  • surgery
  • cryoablation, a technique that destroys tissue, in this case through freezing
  • immunotherapy, a treatment that stimulates the immune system to attack the cancer cells
  • clinical trials, which play an important role in helping search for new and more effective treatments as well as better ways of diagnosing, screening or preventing disease

What does kidney surgery involve?

Kidney surgery is the most common kidney cancer treatment. An operation can treat early cancer of the kidney as well as advanced stages of the disease. Full kidney removal is known as nephrectomy. Depending on the severity of the kidney cancer, a surgeon may only remove part of the kidney during a kidney operation. This is called partial nephrectomy.

What does robotic surgery involve?

This is laparoscopic surgery using robotic assistance through small keyhole incisions. The keyhole instruments and a camera allow the surgeon to see inside your abdomen and are attached to a robotic arms. The da Vinci robot was introduced to the Royal Free in 2014. Read our news story: Robot completes 100 operations.

What happens after my kidney operation?

Following your kidney operation you will be invited back to the specialist kidney cancer clinic at the Royal Free Hospital to have a check up. If the renal surgeon is happy with your recovery, he or she will make arrangements for you to have an appointment at your local hospital and any future appointments will take place there.