Kidney Failure Due to Cancer & Chemotherapy

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Chemotherapy agents are designed to kill cancer cells but also affect normal cells in the body. Kidney damage results if enough cells are killed or damaged with the administration of chemotherapy. Kidney damage may be temporary or permanent.

Commonly Toxic Chemotherapy

Many chemotherapy drugs cause renal damage. The Chemotherapy Source Book and Shands Cancer Center list cisplatin, cytarabine, gemzar, cytoxan, ifosfamide, alimta, streprozocin, methotrexate, carboplatin, mitomycin C and oxaliplatin as commonly causing renal damage.

Risk Factors

The Chemotherapy Source Book lists several risk factors for renal damage due to chemotherapy. These include age over 60 years, high blood pressure, diabetes, heart disease, family history of kidney disease, multiple myeloma, using NSAIDS such as ibuprophen and reduced fluid intake.

Signs of Kidney Damage

The Shands Cancer Center lists decreased urine output, dark urine, urgency, fatigue, muscle weakness, swelling of hands/feet, nausea and confusion as signs of renal damage.


Preventing kidney damage includes properly hydrating the body with fluid. IV fluids given with chemotherapy can prevent damage. Dose reductions of chemotherapy in at-risk patients and chemicals such as bicarbonate also reduce risk of kidney damage, notes the Shands Cancer Center.


The Shands Cancer Center lists the use of medications, diaylasis, and diet modifications as treatments for chemotherapy-induced kidney damage. Discontinuation or dose reduction of chemotherapy may also return kidney function to normal if no permanent damage has occurred.