Active surveillance for kidney cancer

If you have kidney cancer but don’t have any symptoms, you may be offered active surveillance. This means that your healthcare team watches the cancer closely rather than giving treatment right away. They will use tests and examine you to see if the kidney cancer is growing or spreading. Treatment is given when you develop symptoms or the cancer changes.

This approach helps avoid side effects that can happen with treatments such as surgery or targeted therapy. There is no evidence so far that people won’t live as long when they get active surveillance compared to other treatments. And there is no evidence that active surveillance has other negative effects if or when you start treatment.

You may be offered active surveillance if:

  • you are elderly or have a serious medical condition making you unable to tolerate treatment
  • the kidney cancer tumour is less than 4 cm (1-1/2 in)
  • the cancer has spread to other parts of the body, but you have few or no symptoms

Expert review and references