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What to Expect After Surgery for Kidney Cancer

These are some of the side effects from surgery for kidney cancer. Here’s an overview of what you may experience after surgery:

  • You may have to stay in the hospital for two to seven days, depending on the type of surgery you had.

  • For the first few days after surgery, you are likely to have pain from the incision. With laparoscopy, the incision is smaller, so pain is less of a problem. Your pain can be controlled with medicine. Talk with your doctor or nurse about your options for pain relief. Some people don’t want to take pain medication, but doing so can help your healing. If you don’t control pain well, for example, you may not want to cough or turn over often, which you need to do as you recover from surgery.

  • You will get intravenous fluids after surgery.

  • You will likely have a urinary catheter for a few days. This a tube attached to your urethra and bladder so that you urinate into a bag outside your body. In some cases, you may go home with the catheter still in.

  • You may feel tired or weak for a while. The amount of time it takes to recover from an operation is different for each person.

  • You may have diarrhea. Talk with your doctor, nurse, or a dietitian about what you can eat to reduce the chance of getting diarrhea.

  • You may have constipation from using some pain medicine, from not moving much, or from not eating much. Talk with your doctor or nurse about getting more dietary fiber or the use of a stool softener.

  • When you get home, you may get back to light activity, but you should avoid strenuous activity for six weeks. Your doctor and nurse will talk with you about anything you shouldn’t do and what you need to do at home.

Let your doctor know right away if you have any of these problems:

  • Bleeding

  • Signs of infection at your incision site, such as redness, swelling, or drainage along the incision line

  • Fever

  • Chills

As with most types of surgery, kidney cancer surgery carries certain risks, such as damage to internal organs. While you are in the hospital and at your follow-up visits, your doctor will monitor you for risks such as these:

  • Incisional hernia, which is the bulging of internal organs under the incision

  • Unwanted air in the chest cavity called pneumothorax

  • Kidney failure if the remaining kidney does not function well

These are possible side effects of arterial embolization, listed from most to least common:

  • Temporary nausea

  • Vomiting

  • Pain


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