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Kidney Cancer

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Kidney Cancer Overview

Kidney cancer is a malignant tumor of the kidneys, two large bean-shaped organs located in the mid-back, just below the rib cage. The main job of the kidneys is to filter waste products from the blood and remove liquid waste, in the form of urine, from the body.

Kidney cancer accounts for about three percent of all adult cancer, with an average of 30,000 new cases reported in the United States annually. The most common form of the disease is renal cell carcinoma.

Kidney cancer typically affects people between the ages of 50 and 70, men twice as often as women. Smoking doubles the risk of kidney cancer.

Workplace exposure to cadmium or asbestos may increase the risk of developing the disease.

People with the rare genetic diseases of tuberous sclerosis or von Hippel-Lindau syndrome, or who have been on kidney dialysis for a long time, are also at increased risk.

Some studies suggest a link between kidney cancer and being overweight and eating a high-fat diet.

Diagnosing Kidney Cancer

Blood in the urine is the most common sign of kidney cancer. Other symptoms may include unexplained pain in the side or lower back, unexplained sudden weight loss or fever, a lump or mass on the belly, persistent tiredness, and swelling of the ankles or legs.

Many of these symptoms can also be caused by other, less serious conditions. Therefore, getting a correct diagnosis is very important.

Kidney Cancer Treatment

When kidney cancer is found and treated early, the chances for survival are very good.

Surgery to remove all or part of the kidney is the main treatment and offers the highest chance of a cure. Smaller kidney tumors can very often be removed in a procedure called a partial nephrectomy, in which the surgeon removes only the cancerous part of the kidney and leaves the rest of the kidney in place.

When the cancer is aggressive or involves a large part of the kidney, a radical nephrectomy may be required. In this procedure, the entire kidney is removed, as well as the adrenal gland, which sits atop the kidney, nearby fatty tissue, and lymph nodes.

The Department of Urology provides expert diagnosis and treatment of kidney cancer, specializing in surgical treatment. They have particular expertise in partial nephrectomy and laparoscopic surgery, a minimally invasive technique that is quickly becoming the standard of care for small renal cell cancers.

The surgery is performed through small incisions and guided by a tiny video camera. A new technique called hand-assisted laparoscopy allows the surgeon to insert a hand into a special incision to remove the tumor in one piece. Compared to open surgery, patien ts who undergo laparoscopic surgery experience significantly less blood loss and pain, and have shorter hospital stays and faster recovery times.

For patient referral or consultations, contact the Department of Urology at 412-692-4100.