Kidney Cancer Surgery

  • With our population living longer, we need to preserve as much kidney function as we can for [patients’] later years. Performing nephron-sparing treatment is critical and should be the first choice for the vast majority of renal masses, even larger ones and those in older patients. - Thomas Schwaab, MD, PhD, Urologist and Assistant Professor, Departments of Urology and Immunology

When a patient is diagnosed with kidney cancer, removing the tumor is one of the first options considered. This can be done using two different procedures:

  • Radical Nephrectomy: Surgeons remove the entire affected kidney as well as the adrenal gland, some surrounding tissue and possibly some lymph nodes.
  • Partial Nephrectomy: Surgeons remove the tumor with part or none of the kidney.

Although a person can live with just one kidney after a radical nephrectomy, a partial nephrectomy is less likely to lead to decreased kidney function, which is especially important for older patients or those with hypertension or diabetes. In most cases, partial nephrectomy removes kidney cancer as effectively as radical nephrectomy and can be performed by open or robotic surgery.

Open Surgery

For more complex tumors or for those patients who have only one kidney remaining prior to surgery, open surgery may be the best approach to treatment. This procedure requires an incision to be made in the abdomen. The advantage of an open approach, especially when performing a partial nephrectomy, is the ability to put the kidney on ice, which helps to preserve kidney function.

Robot-Assisted Surgery

The vast majority of kidney cancer surgeries performed at Roswell Park are now done laparoscopically with robotic assistance. The kidneys are accessed via five tiny ''keyhole'' incisions, resulting in less pain and blood loss and a shorter hospital stay and recovery period. Patients typically get discharged the day after surgery.

Experience Matters

We have performed more than 300 partial and 200 radical minimally invasive nephrectomies (kidney removals) over the last five years, the highest volume of kidney cancer surgeries and the highest volume of partial nephrectomies in upstate New York.