Follow-up after treatment for kidney cancer

Follow-up after treatment is an important part of cancer care. Follow-up for kidney cancer is often shared among the cancer specialists (oncologists), your urologist and your family doctor. Your healthcare team will work with you to decide on follow-up care to meet your needs.

Don’t wait until your next scheduled appointment to report any new symptoms and symptoms that don’t go away. Tell your healthcare team if you have:

  • headaches
  • changes in your memory
  • a cough that won’t go away

The chance that kidney cancer will come back (recur) is greatest within 3 years, so you will need close follow-up during this time. Kidney cancer can come back a long time after treatment is finished, so it’s important to continue to see your healthcare team regularly.

Schedule for follow-up visits

Follow-up visits for kidney cancer are usually scheduled for 6 years after treatment:

  • every 3 to 6 months after initial treatment for 3 years
  • once a year after 3 years

During follow-up visits

During a follow-up visit, your healthcare team will usually ask questions about the side effects of treatment and how you’re coping. They may also ask about your diet and lifestyle.

Your doctor may do a physical exam, including:

  • feeling your abdomen, side and lower back
  • checking your surgical scar to see how it is healing or if there are any changes to it

Tests are often part of follow-up care. You may have:

  • kidney function blood tests to make sure that your remaining kidney is healthy
  • liver function blood tests to check for any problems with your liver that could mean that the cancer has come back in the liver
  • an abdominal ultrasound to check the remaining kidney to make sure it is healthy and working
  • a CT scan to check the remaining kidney and to look for any changes in the abdomen, including the liver
  • a chest x-ray to see if the cancer has come back in the lungs

You may need to have follow-up tests more often if you have a moderate or high risk of recurrence if you have large tumours or cancer that has spread to the lymph nodes or both.

If the cancer has come back, you and your healthcare team will discuss a plan for your treatment and care.

Questions to ask about follow-up

To make the decisions that are right for you, ask your healthcare team questions to ask about follow-up.

Expert review and references

  • Alberta Health Services . Renal Cell Carcinoma Clinical Practice Guideline GU-003 . Alberta Health Services ; 2017 :
  • Bratslavsky G, Pinto PA & Linehan WM . Management of inherited forms of renal cancer. Scardino PT, Lineham WM, Zelefsky MJ & Vogelzang NJ (eds.). Comprehensive Textbook of Genitourinary Oncology. 4th ed. Philadelphia: Wolters Kluwer/Lippincott Williams & Wilkins; 2011: 44G: pp. 762-768.
  • Kassouf W, Monteiro LL, Drachenberg DE, et al . Canadian Urological Association guideline for followup of patients after treatment of non-metastatic renal cell carcinoma . Canadian Urological Association Journal . 2018 .
  • National Comprehensive Cancer Network . NCCN Clinical Practice Guidelines in Oncology: Kidney Cancer (Version 2.2019) .
  • Rendon RA, Kapoor A, Breau R, Leveridge M, Feifer A, Black PC, So A . Surgical management of renal cell carcinoma: Canadian Kidney Cancer Forum Consensus . Canadian Urological Association Journal . 2014 .

Medical disclaimer

The information that the Canadian Cancer Society provides does not replace your relationship with your doctor. The information is for your general use, so be sure to talk to a qualified healthcare professional before making medical decisions or if you have questions about your health.

We do our best to make sure that the information we provide is accurate and reliable but cannot guarantee that it is error-free or complete.

The Canadian Cancer Society is not responsible for the quality of the information or services provided by other organizations and mentioned on, nor do we endorse any service, product, treatment or therapy.

1-888-939-3333 | | © 2024 Canadian Cancer Society