Making the Decision to Have Radiation Therapy for Kidney Cancer

For most cancers, the goal of radiation therapy is to use high-energy X-rays to kill cancer cells and shrink tumors or keep them from coming back. This may also ease symptoms, such as bleeding or pain.

Radiation is not as effective as other methods for treating kidney cancer. However, it is most commonly used to treat kidney cancer that has spread to the brain or bones and to treat pain caused by bone metastasis. It kills the cancer cells in the bone. It also stabilizes a bone that has been weakened by metastasis and may be at risk for breaking. You may be given medications to increase bone density and further protect against fractures along with the radiation.

With kidney cancer, external radiation is most common. This means the radiation comes from a machine outside the body.

You may talk with a a radiation oncologist, a doctor who specializes in both cancer and radiation. This doctor decides:

  • The type of radiation you need

  • The dose you need

  • How long you need treatment

To deal with the medical information and remember all your questions, it may be helpful to bring a family member or close friend with you to doctors' appointments. In addition, a written list will make it easier for you to remember your questions. During your visit, ask what you can expect to feel during and after the treatment.