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Follow up

After treatment, you have regular check ups to look for signs of the cancer coming back or spreading. This is called follow up.

You usually have follow up appointments for a few years. This is so any cancer can be found and treated early.

After surgery

After surgery for early or locally advanced kidney cancer, you usually have your first follow up appointment 4 to 6 weeks after you leave hospital. This is to make sure you’re recovering well from your operation.

You then have regular follow up appointments for several years after treatment. After surgery for early kidney cancer, the more time that passes with no sign of it, the smaller the risk is of the cancer ever coming back. But there is still a small risk, even after 10 years. Your doctor will talk to you about the follow up for your particular situation. 

Low risk of cancer coming back

If your risk of the cancer coming back is low, you might have:

Ultrasound scans at: 

  • 6 months
  • 2 years

You migth also have CT scans at:

  • 1 year
  • 3 years 
  • 5 years
  • then every 2 years onwards

Higher risk of cancer coming back

If your risk of the cancer coming back is higher, you might have a CT scan at:

  • 6 months
  • 1 year
  • 2 years
  • 3 years
  • 5 years
  • every 2 years onwards

The risk of the cancer coming back depends on many factors including:

  • how big the cancer is
  • changes in the tumour cells (called sarcomatoid dedifferentiation)
  • whether there are cancer cells at the edge of the tissue removed by surgery (called a positive margin)
  • raised levels of some chemicals in the blood

Advanced cancer

If you had advanced cancer, or your cancer wasn't completely removed but isn't growing, you and your doctor will decide together how often you need follow up appointments. This will depend on any treatment you may need to help control the cancer.

After cryotherapy or radiofrequency ablation

You might have follow up appointments and scans about every 3 to 6 months after having a small kidney cancer treated by cryotherapy or radiofrequency ablation.

During treatment with targeted cancer drugs

You might have regular follow up appointments and scans about every 3 to 6 months if you are having targeted cancer drugs for advanced cancer. The scans check how well the treatment is working.

Your specialist will also discuss any symptoms or side effects 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.

At your appointments

Your doctor will:

  • examine you
  • check your lymph nodes and abdomen
  • listen to your chest
  • ask how you are

You also have blood tests to check that your remaining kidney is working well.

Between appointments

Tell your doctor or specialist nurse as soon as possible if you’re worried or notice any new symptoms between appointments.

How you may feel

Some people find it very stressful to know they need follow up for cancer. You can talk this through with your doctor or specialist nurse. They can:

  • reassure you
  • explain how often you will have checks
  • explain the treatment you may have if the cancer does come back

There is currently no evidence linking stress to cancer.

Counselling

It can be very helpful to have counselling after cancer treatment or during longer term treatments.

What you can do for yourself

To keep healthy and feel you are doing something positive you can:

  • eat a healthy diet
  • try to learn to relax
  • try to stop smoking
  • note any new symptoms and report them to your doctor

A diet high in fresh fruit, vegetables and fish and low in animal fats is good for your health.

Relaxing will help you feel better and may help you cope better too. You could try a new hobby or relaxation techniques.

Last reviewed: 
01 Feb 2019
  • EAU Guidelines on Renal Cell Carcinoma

    B Ljungberg and others

    European Association of Urology 2018 

  • Renal Cell Carcinoma: ESMO Clinical Practice Guidelines
    European Society of Medical Oncology, 2016

  • Intensive Imaging-based Follow-up of Surgically Treated Localised Renal Cell Carcinoma Does Not Improve Post-recurrence Survival: Results from a European Multicentre Database (RECUR)

    S Dabestani and others

    European Urology 2019 75(2) pages 261-264

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