According to estimates by the American Cancer Society, more than 63,000 new cases of kidney cancer will occur this year – and the disease will claim the lives of nearly 15,000 of them.
To comprehend why cancer of the kidneys is so disconcerting, one must understand the critical role the organs play in maintaining optimal health.
For a second, imagine there was no system for removing discarded waste from our neighborhoods. Trash would pile up, litter would destroy the health of our planet, and we would live amid filth.
Just as that efficient waste management system works for the environment we live in, the kidneys provide a similar invaluable service within the human body.
Made up of a complex system of filtering units known as nephrons, the kidneys filter our blood, disposing of superfluous proteins, before sending vital minerals back through the bloodstream and then expelling waste out of the body in the form of urine. The importance of these small, bean-shaped organs cannot be overstated.
If you’re male, obese, elderly, a smoker, have hypertension, used painkillers for long periods, or have a family history of renal cell cancer (the most prevalent type), you may be a target for this disease. To ensure a proper diagnosis, your physician will utilize a variety of blood, urine, and imaging tests such as CT scans, to detect any abnormalities; biopsies can also be beneficial for more insight.
Kidney cancer is classified in stages, which your physician will use to determine the most appropriate treatment for the disease. In stages I and II, the disease is confined to the kidneys and hasn’t spread to the lymph nodes or blood vessels. These earlier stages of kidney cancer usually have the best prognosis, or possibility for recovery, because these stages can be treated with surgery. Additionally, most people can subsist with just one functioning kidney.
Robotic Assist for Precise, Minimally Invasive Surgeries
A robotic partial nephrectomy is used to remove benign tumors while preserving the healthy parts of the kidney. In this cutting-edge procedure, several tiny incisions are made and a robotic arm with a camera help to guide the surgeon. The procedure offers unprecedented precision thanks to a three-dimensional view of the surgical area and instruments; plus, the recuperation period typically only requires a one- to two-day hospital stay.
When later-stage kidney cancer occurs, the entire organ may need to be removed. In these cases, robotic radical nephrectomies offer a less invasive alternative to traditional open surgeries because it doesn’t require cutting through bone or muscle and consequently produces smaller scars.
Additional Kidney Cancer Treatment Options
Your physician may recommend radiation therapy to limit further symptoms and stop cancer cells in their tracks so they don’t spread to the bones, brain, or blood.
Also, when it comes to the kidneys, temperature fluctuations can offer alternative approaches to beating cancer.
Cryoablation (freezing the tumor) and radiofrequency ablation (using high-energy radio waves to heat the tumor ) are two nonsurgical methods of destroying cancer cells and can be used on those with a bleeding risk, or other restrictions.However, these treatments are typically most effective on smaller tumors.
As with any type of cancer, there is always the possibility of recurrence.
Recurrent cancer can be managed with immunotherapy, which harnesses the human body’s own immune system to ward off cancer cells.
Patients should maintain communication with their physician throughout the recuperation process. Most patients will be monitored frequently following one of the above-mentioned surgeries.
High blood pressure is a common battle for those with kidney cancer because poor kidney function can cause blood pressure to skyrocket, further damaging the kidney.
Remember: education is freedom. Your urologist is an invaluable resource, who can provide comfort and act as a sounding board for questions or concerns. If you would like to learn more about kidney cancer screening or treatment, contact Urologic Surgeons of Arizona at (480) 409-5060 or request an appointment online.