Surgery for Kidney Cancer
Optimized Kidney Cancer Surgery
Recognized nationally and internationally for the treatment of kidney cancer, Fox Chase Cancer Center is one of the busiest centers in the country for specialized kidney cancer surgery.
About 85% of patients with localized kidney cancer treated at Fox Chase undergo a minimally-invasive surgical approach, such as robot-assisted laparoscopic surgery; a partial nephrectomy or nephron-sparing surgery (preserving the unaffected portion of the kidney); or in many cases, a combined minimally-invasive and kidney sparing approach. In most instances, the entire kidney does not need to be removed to treat the kidney cancer. This treatment option does not increase the chance of recurrence (the cancer coming back)when performed by experienced surgeons.
Fox Chase physicians have unmatched expertise treating patients with kidney cancer. They carefully examine each case to tailor a personalized treatment plan for you. Traditional kidney cancer treatment requires open surgery to remove the entire kidney, nearby adrenal gland and all surrounding tissue. Other options exist and Fox Chase Cancer Center physicians frequently recommend them, including:
Partial Nephrectomy (Also Known as Nephron-Sparing Surgery)
Partial nephrectomy (also known as nephron-sparing surgery) is surgery that treats the cancer while preserving the normal and unaffected portion of the kidney and maintaining its function.
Today, most kidney cancer patients have an early stage tumor that can be treated with a kidney-sparing approach. Our surgeons are among a select group of physicians in the nation who regularly perform this more specialized and complicated operation, often using a minimally-invasive surgical approach, such as robot-assisted surgery.
Minimally-Invasive Surgery (Laparoscopy)
Fox Chase surgeons are highly skilled and experienced in robot-assisted laparoscopic kidney surgery. They perform nearly 200 cases per year; about 1,000 overall.
Almost all kidney cancer patients are candidates for minimally-invasive surgery, even those with highly complex cases and very large tumors measuring up to 20 centimeters. In fact, many of the patients that come to Fox Chase Cancer Center for laparoscopic kidney surgery were told that they were not candidates for this approach by other, less experienced surgeons.
Minimally-invasive surgery has equal treatment outcomes as traditional open surgery with the added benefit of less bleeding, decreased pain, a shorter recovery period and a quicker return to normal activity.
Traditional Open Surgery
While most patients treated at Fox Chase are candidates for partial nephrectomy, or nephron-sparing surgery, some patients may instead undergo a radical nephrectomy. This operation involves the removal of the whole kidney with or without the nearby adrenal gland and the fatty tissue around the kidney. This surgery is the traditional standard intervention for kidney cancer. Almost all patients who require radical nephrectomy today can undergo this operation by a minimally-invasive surgical approach. When appropriate, radical nephrectomy with removal of the entire kidney has no long-term impact on a patient's kidney function. The remaining kidney can compensate and sufficiently function independently without a risk for kidney failure or dialysis in the future.
Tissue Ablation Treatments
In addition to partial nephrectomy, Fox Chase Cancer Center surgeons are experienced in tissue ablation treatments (e.g., cryosurgery and RadioFrequency Ablation, or RFA).
Tissue ablation refers to local (rather than through the body's system) methods that destroy the tumor without removing it. Tissue ablation is usually appropriate for patients with only a few small tumors for whom surgery is not an option. Tissue ablation is not a cure—but does result in similar survival rates as surgery in patients with small tumors.
RadioFrequency Ablation uses high-energy radio waves to treat the tumor. A thin, needle-like probe is temporarily placed into the tumor to release the radio waves. It is guided accurately using ultrasound or CT scans. The probe releases high frequency alternating current that creates frictional heating and destroys the cancer cells. This has become a major treatment method for patients with small tumors.
Cryosurgery destroys a tumor by freezing it with a very cold metal probe. The probe is guided into the tumor using ultrasound. This method can treat larger tumors than either of the other ablation techniques but sometimes requires general anesthesia (where you are asleep).
These alternative nephron-sparing surgical treatments for kidney cancer may also preserve the noncancerous portion of the involved kidney. Patients treated by partial nephrectomy or other nephron-sparing surgery benefit by maintaining the normal and healthy portions of their affected kidney while having the same cancer treatment outcomes as patients who have had their entire kidney removed.
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