What are Three Options for Kidney Cancer Treatment?
Treatment for kidney cancer depends on the stage of the cancer and whether the patient is healthy enough to tolerate the treatment. Staging the cancer helps the physician know how large the tumor is and whether or not it has spread. Here are three options for treating kidney cancer:
Surgery is considered the best choice when it comes to fighting kidney cancer. Even if the cancer has spread from the kidney, surgery can extend the patient’s life, give them a better chance of going into remission and alleviate symptoms such as pain or bleeding.
The two types of surgery for kidney cancer are radical or partial nephrectomy. In the first surgery, the entire kidney is removed. The surgeon may also remove the adrenal gland that sits on top of it.
The surgeon can operate using an incision in the middle of the abdomen or an incision in the back above the affected kidney. If the tumor has infiltrated the inferior vena cava, which brings blood to the heart, the patient’s heart may have to be stopped during the operation. In that case, they are put on a heart-lung machine.
The kidney can also be removed laparoscopically. The surgeon makes three half-inch long incisions in the abdomen, and uses special tools and a tube attached to a lighted camera to operate. Sometimes, the doctor sits at a panel and operates a robot arm, which allows the operation to be even more precise. This is called the Da Vinci system. Patients who have laparoscopic nephrectomies do just as well as patients with open nephrectomies, but their hospital stay is shorter, and they have less pain and a shorter recovery period.
In a partial nephrectomy, only part of the kidney is removed. This is done for early stage cancers or for smaller tumors. Like a radical nephrectomy, it can be open or laparoscopic, and the patient benefits from having at least some kidney function left.
These treatments are performed when the patient is too sick for surgery. In cryotherapy, the tumor is killed when a probe is inserted into it and releases very cold gas. In radiofrequency ablation, the probe that’s placed into the tumor uses an electrical current to heat up the tumor and destroy it. The tumor can also be killed by arterial embolization. In this procedure, a medication is injected into the renal artery, which destroys the kidney’s blood supply. Both the kidney and the tumor die. Embolization is sometimes used before a radical nephrectomy to cut down on bleeding.
Generally, kidney cancer does not respond as well to radiation as other types of cancer, but radiation therapy can be done to alleviate the patient’s symptoms or if they are too sick for surgery.
One type of radiation therapy is called stereotactic radiosurgery and is sometimes used to treat a single tumor. Beams of radiation are focused on the tumor at different angles over a period of time.
In another type of radiation therapy, a movable, computer controlled linear accelerator aims a beam of radiation at the tumor from different approaches. This treatment is good for metastatic cancers.