Risk for Renal (Kidney) Problems

Dava Szalda, MD MSHP
Last Reviewed: May 12, 2017

What is the risk?

Chemotherapies (or other medications), radiation or surgeries may cause changes to kidney function. The job of the kidneys is to filter out unnecessary fluid and electrolytes from the body. Chemotherapies that have been noted to affect the kidneys include cyclophosphamide and ifosphamide. Some cancers require removal of a portion or whole kidney as well. Finally, radiation treatments directed to the abdomen may expose one or both kidneys to radiation.

Symptoms/When to Call

Very often there are no outward symptoms of kidney problems. This is why it is important that survivors follow up with providers who are aware of their treatment and check kidney function as needed. Kidney function can be measured with blood or urine tests. When symptoms are present, patients may experience extra fluid in the body, frequent urination and/or symptoms due to changes in normal electrolyte levels.

Prevention and Treatment

Anyone who has underlying kidney disease prior to certain therapies should have treatment regimens adjusted as needed.

For those told they have issues with kidney function during or after treatment, kidney function (via blood tests) should be monitored closely. Medications should be carefully reviewed by the health care team so that survivors don’t inadvertently take other medications that could further worsen their kidney function.  Sometimes, medications or procedures are required to treat poor kidney function related to cancer or treatments, and these should be managed by a team of experts (nephrologists).

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