Why It’s Important to Save Your Kidney
After a kidney cancer diagnosis, one of the first questions your physician will seek to answer in developing your treatment plan will be whether your cancer can be treated with surgery — the standard, primary treatment for many patients. And if so, can you still keep your kidney? Although you can live with one kidney, cancer surgeons aim to remove just the cancer from the affected kidney — a procedure called a partial nephrectomy — whenever possible. More than 90% of kidney cancer surgeries at Roswell Park are done as partial nephrectomies, which comes with certain advantages.
What are the advantages?
Studies show that kidney-sparing surgery is comparable to removing the whole kidney in terms of cancer control, and keeping the kidney is better for the patient long term. By leaving enough healthy kidney tissue, the kidney can still do its work, maintaining kidney function. This is particularly important for patients at risk for poor kidney function, such as those with high blood pressure or diabetes, patients with tumors in both kidneys, or patients who only have one kidney. In addition, patients in general are living longer and it’s important to preserve as much kidney function as possible for their later years, when kidney function naturally declines.
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Who can have kidney-sparing surgery?
This option is best for patients with early-stage kidney cancer, who have small tumors, no more than 4 centimeters (cm) wide, however the procedure may be considered to remove tumors up to 7 cm wide. The location of the tumor is critical, too. Surgeons must be able to remove the entire tumor safely.
A more time-consuming surgery
Performing kidney-sparing surgery is a complex procedure. (It’s far easier for the surgeon to simply remove the whole kidney.) This surgery is often performed using minimally invasive laparoscopic techniques and robotic surgical tools. These techniques are easier on the patient and typically result in a shorter hospital stay and faster recovery. For these reasons, the surgeon’s skill and experience is a key factor to a successful outcome.
Roswell Park performs more partial nephrectomies than any other Western New York facility, and is one of the highest-volume centers for robotic kidney cancer surgery in the nation.