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Surgery to remove secondary cancer

Surgery for kidney cancers that have spread to another part of the body is sometimes possible. It is very specialist surgery. 

What advanced cancer is

Kidney cancer is called advanced if it has spread to another part of the body. You might also hear it called a secondary cancer or metastasis. Your cancer may be advanced when you are first diagnosed.

Surgery for advanced cancer

Removing cancer that has spread (secondary cancer) is very specialist surgery. It is becoming more common, as it is possible to slow down the growth of the cancer.

Surgery aims to help you to live longer and have a better quality of life.  

Your doctor takes into account how healthy and fit you are when deciding if this treatment is right for you. You must be in reasonable health to recover from a big operation. Depending on where your cancer has spread, your cancer specialist may refer you to a specialist surgeon for your surgery.

Types of surgery

Your doctor might suggest surgery if your cancer has come back in the area of the kidney. Or if it has spread to only one other part of the body, such as the lungs or liver.

They may want to remove either:

  • your kidney, or
  • your kidney and the secondary cancer

Even if you can only have your kidney removed, it can still slow down the cancer’s growth and keep you in reasonable health for longer.

Kidney cancers can cause symptoms such as high temperatures (fever), weakness, muscle pains and nerve problems. Surgery can help to control these symptoms.

In some cases, it might be possible to cure a cancer by removing a single area of cancer spread. It is possible to have secondary kidney cancer removed from your:

  • lung
  • liver 
  • bone (in rare situations)
  • brain 
  • skin 

Your specialist will discuss your individual situation  and whether you are fit and well enough to have surgery.

The types of surgery to remove secondary cancer are all very different from each other. They vary depending on your individual medical situation. 

What to expect

Your surgeon will remove the affected kidney and secondary cancer in one operation if possible. For example, if the secondary cancer is in the liver and close to the affected kidney.

But usually you have 2 operations. You usually have the operation to remove your kidney first. After you’ve recovered from that operation, you have scans and then surgery to remove the secondary cancer.

Last reviewed: 
15 Jan 2019
  • Guidelines on renal cell cancer

    European Association of Urology, 2018

  • Multi-disciplinary Team (MDT) Guidance for Managing Renal Cancer

    British Association of Urological Surgeons (BAUS): Section of Oncology: British Uro-oncology Group (BUG), 2012

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