Kidney Cancer Treatment

April 8, 2021

Each year, kidney cancer is diagnosed in approximately 52,000 Americans. Kidney cancer is about twice as common in males than females and is usually diagnosed between the ages of 50 and 70. With early diagnosis and treatment, kidney cancer can be cured. Survival rates for patients with kidney cancer range from 79-100%.

When a kidney tumor is suspected, an imaging study is obtained. The initial imaging study is usually a renal ultrasound or a CT scan of the abdomen and pelvis. In some cases, a combination of imaging studies may be required to completely evaluate the tumor. If cancer is suspected, the patient is then further evaluated to determine if the cancer has spread beyond the kidney using additional imaging and blood tests.

Treatment of kidney cancer is largely based on the size and location of the tumor and whether or not it has spread or metastasized. When the tumor has spread to other organs, there are four primary treatment options: nephrectomy followed by immunotherapy, initial treatment with immunotherapy, clinical research trials and surveillance.

When the tumor appears confined to the kidney, there are three treatment options: tumor removal (surgery), tumor ablation, and surveillance. A nephrectomy (whole or partial) is the surgical removal of the whole kidney or a portion of the kidney where the tumor is confined in order to rid the body of the tumor. It is considered the gold standard of treatment for kidney cancer. A nephrectomy can be performed through a traditional incision with open surgery or through several small incisions laparoscopically.

Surgical Options:

-Open nephrectomy (radical and partial): Traditional open nephrectomy (partial or radical) is performed through a flank or abdominal incision. This incision is typically 3-8 inches in length and may include removal of a rib.

Laparoscopic, da Vinci Robotic radical nephrectomy: Laparoscopic nephrectomy is performed using telescopes that are inserted into the abdominal cavity through small “keyhole” incisions; however, a somewhat larger incision is often made to permit removal of an intact kidney.

Open and laparoscopic radical nephrectomies have similar complication rates and provide equally effective cancer treatment for patients with tumors that appear confined to the kidney. When compared to open radical nephrectomy, a laparoscopic radical nephrectomy has less post-operative pain, shorter hospital stay, and shorter recovery time. However, not all patients are candidates for laparoscopic nephrectomy as it is best suited for small, localized tumors that have not invaded the lymph nodes or renal vein.