If you’ve been diagnosed with kidney cancer or a new kidney tumor, we recommend considering a second opinion before selecting a course of treatment. Getting a second opinion is a valuable way to verify facts about your condition that are important to your treatment decisions, such as:
- How likely the tumor is to be cancerous
- The clinical stage of the cancer (your doctor’s best estimate of the extent of your disease, based on the results of your exam, lab tests and imaging studies)
- Whether you can have surgery that spares as much normal kidney as possible
A second opinion may give you access to new treatments, new surgical techniques or therapies available only in clinical trials.
How a second opinion can help
If you have received a kidney cancer diagnosis, or you have been told that you have a kidney tumor, kidney mass, renal tumor, renal mass or complex renal cyst, a second opinion makes sense for the following reasons:
Some tumors are small and have a good chance of being benign (not cancerous).
A treatment option that we consider more often these days is known as active surveillance, where these small kidney tumors are observed. We usually prescribe repeated imaging studies to check for any growth of the tumors.
Decision-making for kidney cancer that has spread can be complex.
Patients are often trying to decide between having surgery to remove the kidney with the main tumor or immediately starting medications to treat cancer cells throughout the body. Many patients with metastatic kidney cancer are candidates for clinical trials. A second opinion would help you gather more information to help make this complex decision.
Small tumors can usually be treated by partial nephrectomy.
This means removing the tumor and sparing the normal kidney tissue around the tumor. There are studies that suggest that not enough patients with small kidney tumors get this important surgery.
State-of-the-art options are available for kidney tumors.
Some of these options include clinical trials of new medications for metastatic kidney cancer or kidney cancer at high risk of metastasizing, robotic surgery to speed your recovery and newer therapies to freeze small tumors. We are a referral center for interleukin-2, or IL-2, (Proleukin) treatment, not available everywhere.
Changing treatment regimens is not always easy or possible.
Once you start a course of treatment, it’s sometimes hard to change to something else.
Request a second opinion
Find a urologic oncologist you trust and a course of treatment you are comfortable with. If you weren’t diagnosed at Seattle Cancer Care Alliance (SCCA), consider requesting an appointment with one of our many kidney cancer specialists, who are all University of Washington faculty members.
If you received your diagnosis at SCCA, don’t be afraid to ask your doctor about getting a second opinion. They’ll be more than happy to provide you with a list of recommended doctors.