Surgery may be the only treatment necessary in some situations. The most appropriate surgery for you will depend on the size of the tumor, whether or not it has spread, and your overall state of health.
- Extraction of part of the kidney (partial nephrectomy)
Only the part of the kidney that contains the tumor is removed. Usually this is only possible if the tumor is smaller than 4 cm, though occasionally the procedure can be performed in larger growths.
The aim is to eliminate all of the tumor while saving the most normal tissue possible so that the kidney can function.
A partial nephrectomy may be done when it is important to try to keep the kidney even though it has been affected by the cancer, such as when a person has kidney disease and the affected kidney is the only one that is capable of functioning.
- Extraction of the entire kidney (total nephrectomy)
The whole kidney and part of the surrounding tissue are removed. Also, some lymph nodes may also be removed to see if they contain cancer cells.
A person can lead a totally normal life with just one kidney. Having a kidney removed is major surgery, and to be able to undergo the procedure you will have to be in good physical condition.
A nephrectomy can be performed using minimally invasive techniques (laparoscopic surgery), speeding up recovery times.
- Nephrectomy when the cancer has spread
If the cancer has spread to other parts of the body (metastatic), an operation may be performed if the tumor is causing such symptoms as pain or bleeding or is affecting the blood's chemical balance.
You may receive targeted therapy or drugs and biological therapy to reduce the size of the tumor before being operated on.
Although in this case the operation does not often cure the cancer, it can help other treatments provide improved results and prolong life.
However, these potential advantages must be weighed against all the effects of having major surgery. It can be very difficult to decide whether to go ahead with an operation of these characteristics. It is important to talk to your doctors about the benefits and disadvantages in order to make the best decision.
- Surgery to remove metastatic kidney cancer.
Rarely, surgery may be used to remove metastases in another part of the body, such as the lungs. It is only possible if the cancer has spread into a confined area.
It is also important that you be in a good overall state of health in order to cope with the effects of the surgery. Eliminating a metastasis can help control cancer for a longer period of time.