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Follow up after surgery for kidney cancer

After surgery for early or locally advanced kidney cancer, you will have regular check ups. Your first appointment is usually 4 to 6 weeks after you go home from hospital. This is to make sure you are recovering well from your operation. After this, if the risk of and early cancer coming back is thought to be low, you may only need follow up for 5 years. If your risk of cancer coming back is higher you'll probably have regular CT scans for the first 3 years. If all is well after 3 years, you might just have X-rays every 6 months. But this follow up may continue for life to check for any sign of the cancer coming back.

Follow up after cryotherapy or radiofrequency ablation

If you had a small cancer treated by cryotherapy or radiofrequency ablation you will have appointments and scans every 3 to 6 months to see whether the cancer has come back or is growing. 

Appointments during biological therapy treatment for advanced kidney cancer

If you have advanced cancer and are having treatment with biological therapy, you have regular appointments with your specialist and scans every 3 to 6 months. They check how well the treatment is working. At these appointments your specialist will also discuss any symptoms or side effects that you have. They can suggest treatment to help control them. They can also check whether they need to change your treatment to control the cancer better.

Between appointments

If you are worried or notice any new symptoms between appointments, let your doctor or specialist nurse know as soon as possible.

Your feelings

Many people find that their checkups bring back all the worry about having cancer. It may help to tell someone close to you how you are feeling. It can be very helpful to have counselling after cancer treatment. Look in the coping with cancer section for information about counselling.

 

CR PDF Icon You can view and print the quick guides for all the pages in the Treating kidney cancer section.

 

 

Follow up after surgery for kidney cancer

After surgery for early or locally advanced kidney cancer, you will have regular check ups. Your first appointment is usually 4 to 6 weeks after you go home from hospital. This is to make sure you are recovering well from your operation. After this, if the risk of early cancer coming back is thought to be low, you may only need follow up for 5 years. You might have a chest X-ray every 3 months for the first 2 years, and then every 6 months until you reach 5 years.

If your risk of cancer coming back is higher you'll probably have regular CT scans for the first 3 years. Things that increase the risk of the cancer coming back include

  • Having a tumour larger than 5cm across
  • Changes in the tumour cells called sarcomatoid dedifferentiation
  • Tumour cells at the edge of the tissue that the surgeon removed – doctors call this a positive margin
  • Raised levels in the blood of a chemical called alkaline phosphatase
  • Raised levels in the blood of a chemical called lactate dehydrogenase

If all is well after 3 years, you might just have X-rays every 6 months. But this follow up may continue for life to check for any sign of the cancer coming back.

After surgery for early kidney cancer, the more time that passes with no sign of it, the smaller the risk of the cancer ever coming back. But there is still a small risk, even after 10 years. Your check ups are to make sure the cancer is found as soon as possible, if it comes back. Your own doctor will know best how long you should continue to go back to the hospital and will be happy to talk to you about it. 

If you had advanced cancer or your cancer was not completely removed but is not growing, you and your doctor will decide together how often you need check ups. This will depend on any treatment you might need to help control the cancer.

 

What happens at follow up appointments

Your doctor will examine you and you may have one or more of the following tests

Your doctor will examine you, check your lymph nodes and abdomen, listen to your chest, and ask how you are. You will have blood tests to check that your remaining kidney is working well. Chest X-rays and scans are to check for any signs of cancer spread. You may not be offered scans unless you have a symptom that concerns you or your doctor. CT scans and X-rays both involve exposure to radiation. Even though this is a very small amount of radiation, doctors do not like to order unnecessary scans for this reason.

 

Follow up after cryotherapy or radiofrequency ablation

If you had a small kidney cancer treated by cryotherapy or radiofrequency ablation you will have appointments and scans every 3 to 6 months. These are to see whether the cancer has come back or is growing.

 

Appointments during biological therapy treatment for advanced kidney cancer

If you have advanced cancer and are having treatment with biological therapy, you have regular appointments with your specialist and scans every 3 to 6 months. The scans check how well the treatment is working. At these appointments your specialist will also discuss any symptoms or side effects that you have. They can suggest treatment to help control them. They can also check whether they need to change your treatment to control the cancer better.

 

Between appointments

If you are worried or notice any new symptoms between appointments, let your doctor or specialist nurse know as soon as possible.

 

Your feelings

Many people find their checkups quite worrying. If you are feeling well and getting on with life, a hospital appointment can bring back all the worry about having cancer. Nearly everyone feels like this at sometime or other. Some people say they become difficult to live with when an appointment is coming up. 

You may find it helpful to tell someone close to you how you feel. If you are able to share your worries, they may be easier to bear. It can be very helpful to have counselling after cancer treatment or during longer term treatments such as biological therapy. To find out about counselling, look in the counselling section.

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Updated: 15 January 2014