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Radiation therapy uses high energy x-rays to destroy cancer cells and shrink tumors. In general, radiation therapy is not useful for treating kidney cancer. However, it may be used before surgery to shrink cancer tissue, after surgery to try to make sure all cancer cells are destroyed, or as an alternative for people who can not tolerate surgery. Radiation therapy may also be used to ease pain or other symptoms caused by tumors in other areas of the body.

There are different types of radiation therapy, but external beam radiation is used to treat kidney cancer. In external beam radiation therapy, radiation is produced by a machine positioned outside the body. Short bursts of x-rays are directed at the cancer. The radiation oncologist will direct the radiation beam to deliver as much radiation to the tumor as possible with as little damage to healthy tissue as possible.


Kidney cancer. National Kidney Foundation website. Available at: Accessed December 29, 2015.

Kidney cancer (adult)—renal cell carcinoma. American Cancer Society website. Available at: Accessed December 29, 2015.

Renal cell carcinoma. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at: Updated March 14, 2016. Accessed October 6, 2016.

Renal cell carcinoma (adenocarcinoma of the kidneys). Merck Manual Professional Version website. Available at: Updated November 2013. Accessed December 29, 2015.

Treatment options for renal cell cancer. National Cancer Institute website. Available at: Updated July 7, 2015. Accessed December 29, 2015.

Last reviewed May 2016 by Mohei Abouzied, MD

Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.

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