Sandy Liu, MD: Some practical advice for patients newly diagnosed with kidney cancer is first to get as much information as possible, knowledge that can help you make good decisions. If you see an oncologist, I definitely support getting a second opinion, talking to as many people as you can. Also, going to support groups is very important for understanding what other patients are going through. Having a good support system — caregivers — plays a very important role. You have to make sure that there is someone who is able to help you get to appointments and who’s able to support you when you’re fatigued with treatments, so when you’re not able to do things yourself, you just have that extra support.
Go to a multidisciplinary center where there are radiation oncologists and surgical oncologists that are available for you, as well as clinical trials. Seeking out clinical trials is definitely a good option. There are good websites online such as ClinicalTrials.gov. That has all the clinical trials that are available in the United States. It is all very good.
Adherence to therapy for patients is extremely important because there is just a certain number of options for patients, and we want to try to keep a patient on therapy for as long as possible. The most important thing I can stress to patients, that I tell patients, is to understand and know what to look for in terms of the side effects. Once they know what to look for, they’ll be able to tell me, and I can manage it much better. If they don’t know what to expect, they get scared, they get anxious, and they want to stop therapy. I would stress that the side effects are predictable, they’re manageable, but the patient has to tell me, and we have to work together on this. That’s the most important thing, because these therapies do have side effects, but the side effects are manageable. They’re manageable with dose reductions and dose withholding, but the patient has to be on board.