Treatments for stage 1 kidney cancer

The following are treatment options for stage 1 kidney cancer. Your healthcare team will suggest treatments based on your needs and work with you to develop a treatment plan.


Surgery is a main treatment for stage 1 kidney cancer. You will be offered one of the following surgeries.

A partial nephrectomy removes the tumour and an area of healthy tissue around it. This surgery is done to keep as much kidney as possible. Surgeons use this type of nephrectomy to have the kidney work as normally as possible and maintain your quality of life.

A radical nephrectomy removes the whole kidney, the ureter attached to the kidney and the layer of fat around the kidney. The adrenal gland is sometimes removed as well. A radical nephrectomy may be done if the tumour can’t be removed with a partial nephrectomy.

The surgeon can use different approaches to do surgery. An open approach means the surgery is done through a large incision (surgical cut) in the abdomen. With the laparoscopic approach, the surgeon makes small cuts to place a laparoscope (a thin, tube-like tool with a light and lens) and other tools in the abdomen. The laparoscopic approach is the preferred method for kidney cancer surgery because it is less invasive than the open approach.

Ablation therapy

Ablation therapy uses heat or cold to destroy the kidney tumour. You may be offered ablation therapy if you are not well enough to have surgery or if you only have one working kidney.

Radiation therapy

If you aren’t well enough to have surgery, you may be offered external radiation therapy. This treatment can help shrink the tumour and relieve symptoms.

Active surveillance

Active surveillance can be an option if you are not well enough to have surgery or if you don’t have any symptoms. Your doctor will watch the cancer closely rather than giving treatment right away. It involves regular visits with the doctor where you may have a physical exam, blood tests and imaging tests to see if the cancer has progressed.

Clinical trials

Talk to your doctor about clinical trials open to people with kidney cancer in Canada. Clinical trials look at new ways to prevent, find and treat cancer. Find out more about clinical trials.

Expert review and references

  • Alberta Health Services . Renal Cell Carcinoma Clinical Practice Guideline GU-003 . Alberta Health Services ; 2017 :
  • Jewett MAS, Rendon R, Lacombe L, Karakiewicz PI, Tanguay S, Kassouf W, Leveridge M, et al . Canadian guidelines for the management of small renal massess (SRM) . Canadian Urological Association Journal . 2015 .
  • Karakiewicz PI, Zaffuto E, Kapoor A, et al . Kidney Cancer Research Network of Canada consensus statement on the role of adjuvant therapy after nephrectomy for high-risk, non-metastatic renal cell carcinoma: A comprehensive analysis of the literature and meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials . Canadian Urological Association Journal . 2018 .
  • Lane BR, Canter DJ, Rin BL, et al . Cancer of the kidney. DeVita VT Jr, Lawrence TS, Rosenberg SA. Cancer: Principles and Practice of Oncology. 10th ed. Philadelphia: Wolters Kluwer Health/Lippincott Williams & Wilkins; 2015: 63:865-884.
  • National Comprehensive Cancer Network . NCCN Clinical Practice Guidelines in Oncology: Kidney Cancer (Version 2.2019) .
  • Reaume MN, Basappa NS, Wood L, et al . Management of advanced kidney cancer: Canadian Kidney Cancer Forum (CKCF) consensus update 2017 . Canadian Urological Association Journal . 2017 .
  • 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.

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