Kidney Cancer: Treatment Discharge Instructions

When you’re being treated for kidney cancer, you’ll need to take good care of yourself at home after treatment. The tips below will help you care for yourself after surgery, chemotherapy, or radiation. It's also important to talk with your healthcare providers about what signs to look for and when to call them. For example, chemotherapy can make you more likely to get infections. Make sure you know what number to call with questions. Is there a different number for evenings and weekends? You may want to have a friend or family member with you. He or she can take notes and also ask questions you may not think of.

It's important to know which medicines you're taking. Write your medicines down. Ask your healthcare team how each one works, how much to take, how to take it, when to take it, what it's supposed to do, and what side effects it might have.

Home care after surgery

After surgery, you’ll need to manage your incision care, activity, and diet. Here’s what to do at home after surgery for kidney cancer:

  • Shower as desired. But don’t swim or use a bathtub or hot tub until your healthcare provider says it’s OK.

  • Keep your incision clean and dry. Cover it with a dry, clean bandage as instructed. Wash your incision gently with mild soap and warm water. Pat it dry. Don’t scrub the incision.

  • Don’t worry if you feel more tired than usual. Fatigue and weakness are common for a few weeks after this surgery. Listen to your body. If an activity causes pain, stop.

  • Limit your activity to short walks. Slowly increase your pace and distance as you feel able.

  • Avoid strenuous activities, such as mowing the lawn, using a vacuum cleaner, or playing sports.

  • Don’t lift anything heavier than 10 pounds for 4 weeks.

  • Don’t drive until you are free of pain and no longer taking prescription pain medicine. This may take 2 to 4 weeks.

  • Eat a healthy, well-balanced diet.

  • Take steps to prevent constipation. Eat fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. Drink 6 to 8 glasses of water a day unless your healthcare provider tells you to limit fluids. Use a laxative or a mild stool softener if your healthcare provider says it’s OK.

Home care after chemotherapy

After chemotherapy, you’ll need to prevent and ease mouth sores, manage your appetite, and keep germ-free. Here’s what to do at home after chemotherapy for kidney cancer:

  • Brush your teeth with a soft-bristle toothbrush after every meal.

  • Don’t use dental floss if your platelet count is below 50,000. Your healthcare provider or nurse will tell you if this is the case.

  • Use an oral swab or special soft toothbrush if your gums bleed during regular brushing.

  • Don’t use alcohol-based mouthwashes (they may cause pain if your mouth is irritated or has sores).

  • Use salt and baking soda to clean your mouth. Mix 1 teaspoon of salt and 1 teaspoon of baking soda into an 8-ounce glass of warm water. Swish and spit as often as you like to keep your mouth moist and clean.

  • Let your healthcare provider know if your throat is sore. Check your mouth and tongue for white patches. This may be a sign of a fungal infection. This is a common side effect of chemotherapy. Be sure to tell your healthcare provider about these patches. Medicine may be needed to help you fight a fungal infection.

  • Try to exercise. Exercise keeps you strong and keeps your heart and lungs active. Walk as much as you feel able.

  • Choose bland foods with little taste or smell if you are reacting strongly to food. Eat small meals several times a day. Be sure to cook all food thoroughly. This kills bacteria and helps you avoid infection. Eat foods that are soft. They are less likely to cause mouth, throat, and stomach irritation. Stock up on easy-to-prepare foods. Eat foods high in protein and calories. Drink plenty of water and other fluids, unless directed otherwise by your healthcare provider. Ask your healthcare provider before taking any vitamins, herbs, or other supplements.

  • Keep your skin clean. During treatment your body can’t fight germs very well. Take short baths or showers with warm water. Avoid very hot or cold water. Use moisturizing soap. Treatment can make your skin dry. Apply moisturizing lotion several times a day to help relieve dry skin.

Home care after radiation therapy

After radiation therapy, you’ll need to take extra care of your skin. Here’s what to do at home after radiation therapy for kidney cancer:

  • Don’t scrub or use soap on the treated area of your skin.

  • Ask your health care team which lotion to use.

  • Avoid sun on the treated area. Ask your health care team if you can use a sunscreen.

  • Don’t remove ink marks unless your radiation therapist says it’s OK. Don’t scrub or use soap on the marks when you wash. Let water run over them and pat them dry.

  • Protect your skin from heat or cold. Avoid hot tubs, saunas, heating pads, and ice packs.

  • Wear soft, loose clothing to avoid rubbing your skin.

When to call your healthcare provider

During your treatment period, call your healthcare team if you have any of the following:

  • Fever of 100.4°F (38°C) or higher, or chills

  • Signs of infection around an incision (redness, drainage, warmth, pain)

  • Nausea or vomiting

  • Pain that gets worse

  • Less urine

  • Blood in your urine

  • Diarrhea that doesn’t stop

Be sure to ask about all side effects or problems you should watch for and what you should do if they happen.