Kidney Cancer

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Duke’s kidney cancer specialists use the latest medical and surgical advances to find and treat kidney cancer at the earliest possible stage and provide you with the latest treatment options. As a high-volume center, we routinely perform complex procedures, both with intent to cure as well as to provide the best possible future therapy that is needed. You receive personalized care and access to clinical trials based on your type of kidney cancer.

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Active Surveillance

Small, slow-growing kidney tumors may be monitored to avoid the need for more aggressive treatment before it becomes medically necessary.


Minimally invasive surgery, including robotic surgery, involves small incisions. It may be a treatment option, depending on the size and stage of your kidney cancer, and may result in quicker recovery time and less pain. CT, MRI, and ultrasound create high-quality images that guide surgeons during the procedure and allow them to remove as much of the cancer as possible.

Ablations for Partial Nephrectomies

Extreme heat and freezing temperatures are used to remove, or “ablate,” small kidney tumors. These minimally invasive techniques are performed as outpatient procedures. Radiofrequency ablation relies on heat generated through electrodes at a high frequency. Cryotherapy uses freezing gases in a similar fashion. Both types of energy are targeted at the kidney through a needle-like probe, which is inserted into the kidney under the guidance of advanced imaging.

Complex Surgery for Advanced Kidney Cancer

Urologic surgeons who are specially trained in vascular techniques perform complex surgery, including blood vessel reconstruction, when tumors spread through the vascular system. Our patients experience positive outcomes as a result of our experience performing more of these surgeries than most centers in the Southeast.

Radiation Therapy

Kills kidney cells with high-energy rays that reach the tumor through external beams emitted from a machine, or through inserted special wires, seeds, or wafers implanted near the tumor.  While there are limited circumstances when radiation is used for kidney cancer, it is sometimes considered necessary.

Targeted Therapies

Medications that block the growth of blood vessels that feed kidney tumors may help shrink your tumor. Other medications we give block certain biological pathways to keep the tumor from growing as it typically would.


Delivered by self-injection, this therapy improves the body’s ability to fight cancer by boosting biologic substances, called BRMs (biologic response modifiers), in the body. BRMs regulate and enhance the body’s immune response, which helps the body fight disease.  


Administered orally or through an IV, chemotherapy may be recommended after surgery to kill cancer cells or slow cancer growth. Not considered a standard treatment for kidney cancer, but may be used when kidney cancer doesn't respond to immunotherapy or targeted therapy.

Our Locations

Duke Health offers locations throughout the Triangle. Find one near you.


Finding kidney cancer early and getting an accurate diagnosis are key to your health and outcomes.

Blood and Urine Tests

Find clues to indicate cancer, such as blood in your urine. We monitor levels of your body's byproducts that may show how your disease is progressing. We also check for conditions brought on by cancer through careful assessment of specific blood tests.

Advanced Imaging

In addition to X-rays, CT, MRI, and ultrasound may be used to produce high-quality images of your kidney and assess the presence and stage of kidney tumors.

Bone Scan

A small amount of low-level radioactive material is injected into a vein to determine if cancer has spread to your bones.

Biopsy and Fine Needle Aspiration

A long, thin needle is inserted into the kidney to remove a tiny sample of tissue to be examined under a microscope for the presence of cancer.

Why Choose Duke

The Duke Cancer Institute
The Duke Cancer Institute brings together the extensive resources of Duke University, Duke Health, and the Duke Comprehensive Cancer Center. We are committed to making innovative discoveries, developing new ways to prevent, diagnose, and treat cancer, and delivering those therapies in a patient- and family-centric way.

Nationally Ranked Program
At our National Cancer Institute-designated Comprehensive Cancer Center, our doctors and surgeons care for kidney cancer patients daily. If your kidney cancer has spread to blood vessels or other organs, our surgeons are expertly equipped to perform complex surgery, give you the latest treatment options, and achieve the best possible results for you.

Experience with More Complex Surgeries
When kidney cancer spreads near or into the heart and other organs, our experts are equipped to perform the complex surgeries needed to achieve positive results.

Convenient, Same-Day Appointments
Whenever possible, your appointments are arranged within a week of your first contact with us. Our goal is to offer you convenient appointments for oncology, surgery, and imaging on a single day. You leave with a comprehensive plan for your treatment.

Access to Clinical Trials
You may be eligible to participate in our ongoing clinical trials, which are testing new anti-cancer targeted therapies as well as other new approaches before they become available elsewhere.

More Minimally Invasive Surgery Options
Depending on the size of your tumor, its location, and other factors, we may recommend minimally invasive surgery options to remove the tumor. These treatment options help you recover faster.

A Team of Specialists
Our urologic oncologists, radiation oncologists, and medical oncologists work together to ensure you receive the best and latest treatment options.

Best Cancer Hospital in North Carolina

Where you receive your cancer care is important. Duke University Hospital is proud of our team and the exceptional care they provide. They are why our cancer program is nationally ranked, and the highest-ranked program in North Carolina, according to U.S. News & World Report for 2024–2025.

Options When Kidney Cancer Spreads to Brain or Spine
New treatments are making it possible for people to live longer, with a better quality of life, when cancer has spread to the brain or spine. Duke experts in the medical and surgical management of metastatic brain and spine tumors use these advanced therapies to extend life for people who may have been told they are out of options.

Good Outcomes for Advanced Cancers
Our ability to remove cancer from the kidneys, and the areas to which it may spread, continually results in good outcomes, including long-term survival.

Support for You and Your Family
Our comprehensive cancer support services range from helping patients minimize the side effects of treatment to coping with the emotional and psychological effects of diagnosis and treatment. View our cancer support groups in our event calendar.  

Patient Resources

This page was medically reviewed on 07/06/2023 by