This High-Tech Surgical Method Is Transforming Kidney Cancer Treatment

This High-Tech Surgical Method Is Transforming Kidney Cancer Treatment

High-tech surgical methods are improving kidney cancer survival rates and decreasing the chance of kidney failure.

Kidney cancer is among the top 10 most common cancers in both men and women. Although kidney cancer, particularly in the early stages, can have few to no symptoms at all, it’s important to know some key facts about the condition, including risk factors, symptoms and treatment options.

We reached out to Andre K. Berger, MD, a urologist at Keck Medicine of USC and an assistant professor of clinical urology at the Keck School of Medicine of USC, to learn more about treatment methods using robotic and laparoscopic minimally invasive surgery to help patients with kidney cancer.

The symptoms of kidney cancer

Most cases of kidney cancer are discovered in people over age 50. Many times, there are no symptoms. It’s not uncommon for kidney cancer to be found incidentally when a patient is having imaging performed for an entirely different condition.

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When symptoms occur, they can include:

  • Blood in your urine
  • Lower back /abdominal pain
  • Weight loss
  • Anemia and/or fatigue

Risk Factors

Smoking and obesity are risk factors for developing renal cell carcinoma, the most common type of kidney cancer.

Some patients are at increased risk for developing kidney cancer, including those with certain hereditary disorders. If patients have any of the below syndromes, they should be monitored for any abnormal growths on their kidneys.

  • Von Hippel-Lindau (VHL)
  • Tuberous Sclerosis
  • Birt Hogg Dube Syndrome

Diagnosing kidney cancer

If your doctor suspects kidney cancer, you’ll undergo a CT scan or MRI to detect abnormalities in the kidneys. If a mass is found, a biopsy can determine the nature of the mass, and additional tests will identify the stage of cancer.

Treating kidney cancer

Kidney cancer is fairly resistant to radiation and chemotherapy so physicians typically have to make a large incision in the abdomen and remove the entire kidney (nephrectomy) or the kidney tumors and the surrounding area (partial nephrectomy).

Robotic surgery for kidney cancer may offer several benefits, including minimal scarring and bleeding, less pain and reduced recovery time for the patient.

“Using the surgical robotic system, we can perform partial nephrectomies, which removes just the tumor and preserves the remaining portion of the kidney,” explains Berger. “Even if the tumor is large and invades or extends into the renal vein and the vena cava, we can still use robotic surgery to remove it.”

by Heidi Tyline King

Are you in search of exceptional medical care? The experts at Keck Medicine can help. If you’re in Southern California, request an appointment or call (800) USC-CARE (800-872-2273).