The incidence of small renal masses (SRMs) continues to rise, largely because of the widespread use of cross-sectional imaging for abdominal symptomatology. Clinical management must balance the risk of disease progression from renal cell carcinoma in these tumors against the potential morbidity of treatment, particularly in elderly patients or those with multiple comorbidities. Moreover, a significant minority of SRMs represent benign lesions. This article reviews the current data for surgical excision, cryoablation, radiofrequency ablation, and active surveillance of SRMs. Surgical excision, predominantly in the form of nephron-sparing surgery, remains the standard of care because of its durable oncologic and favorable functional outcomes. Active surveillance and ablative technologies have emerged as alternatives to surgery in select patients based on short-term oncologic data. Nevertheless, the extent to which treatment alters the natural history of SRMs has yet to be established.
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