Monitoring kidney cancer

Monitoring means delaying treatment until it is needed. Sometimes, doctors suggest monitoring small, slow-growing kidney cancer.

Kidney cancers vary a lot in how fast- or slow-growing they are. Some low-grade kidney cancers grow very slowly.

Monitoring is an option for some people who have very small kidney cancers (less than 3cm). It is a way of delaying treatment until it is needed. It is most likely to be offered to people who already have health problems that would increase the risks of surgery. Because the cancer is slow-growing, it may not cause them any problems in their lifetime. Monitoring is sometimes called active surveillance.

Some people who have kidney cancer that has spread to other parts of the body but who do not have symptoms may also be offered monitoring before starting targeted therapy. Treatment will be started if monitoring shows the cancer is growing.

The main advantage of monitoring is that you will not experience the risks or side effects of treatment. If the size of the tumour or your symptoms change during monitoring, your cancer doctor or specialist nurse will talk to you about active treatment.

During monitoring, you will have regular ultrasound, CT or MRI scans. The scans will look for signs that the cancer is growing.

Before deciding whether monitoring is right for you, make sure you understand why it is recommended. If you have any concerns, talk to your cancer doctor.