Chemotherapy is a type of systemic therapy in which anticancer drugs enter the bloodstream and travel throughout the body. Although anticancer drugs are useful for many other cancers, anticancer drugs have shown limited effectiveness against kidney cancer. However, many doctors are studying new drugs and new combinations that may prove more helpful.

This eMedTV article uses the term “kidney cancer” to refer to renal cell carcinoma (also known as renal cell cancer), the most common of the kidney cancer types.


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renal-cell-carcinoma-708618Kidney cancer chemotherapy may be given:

  • Alone
  • Combined with surgery
  • Combined with radiation therapy
  • Combined with surgery and radiation therapy.

Usually chemotherapy is an outpatient treatment that is given at the hospital, clinic, or the doctor’s office. However, depending on which drugs are given and the patient’s general health, the patient may need a short hospital stay.

Side Effects of Kidney Cancer Chemotherapy

The side effects of kidney cancer chemotherapy will depend on the drugs and the doses that the patient receives as well as how the drugs are given. In addition, side effects vary from patient to patient. Anticancer drugs that are placed in the kidney cause irritation, with some discomfort or bleeding that lasts for a few days after treatment. Some drugs may also cause a rash when they come into contact with the skin or genitals.

Systemic kidney cancer chemotherapy affects cancer cells and other cells that divide rapidly, which include:

  • Blood cells: These cells fight infection, help your blood to clot, and carry oxygen to all parts of the body. When drugs affect your blood cells, you are more likely to get infections, bruise or bleed easily, and feel very weak and tired.
  • Cells in hair roots: Chemotherapy can cause you to lose your hair. Although the hair will grow back, it may be somewhat different in color and texture.
  • Cells that line the digestive tract: Chemotherapy can cause a poor appetite, nausea and vomiting, diarrhea, and mouth and lip sores.

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