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Surgery for Kidney Cancer

Most kidney tumors and kidney cancer are cured with surgery. Surgery involves removing the entire tumor in the safest manner for each patient, and can be performed through a variety of approaches including a more traditional open incision, laparoscopic surgery or robot-assisted laparoscopic surgery. Kidney cancer experts at Johns Hopkins help each patient decide on the correct surgery and approach to treat each tumor.

Radical Nephrectomy

Radical nephrectomy refers to removal of the entire kidney and the tumor within the kidney. Radical nephrectomy is performed through an open incision, laparoscopically or with robot-assisted laparoscopic technologies. While removal of a kidney can affect overall kidney function, most patients with two healthy kidneys will not develop end-stage renal disease or require dialysis after nephrectomy.

Partial Nephrectomy

Partial nephrectomy is also referred to as nephron-sparing surgery or kidney-sparing surgery. During partial nephrectomy, the surgeon removes the tumor and spares the remainder of the kidney. Partial nephrectomy can be performed through an open incision or robotic-assisted laparoscopic surgery — most partial nephrectomies at Johns Hopkins are performed robotically. Partial nephrectomy offers the benefits of sparing the kidney and saving kidney function; however, it can be associated with higher risks of complications, including bleeding or urine leak.

Surgery for Recurrent Renal Cancer

Some patients may have kidney cancer return after an initial surgery. Experts at Johns Hopkins specialize in surgery for recurrent renal cancer, and help patients decide if surgery is the next best approach for the treatment of their cancer. Recurrent renal cancer often involves structures adjacent to the kidney, and often requires a multidisciplinary surgical team including vascular, hepatobiliary (liver and pancreas), colorectal, and thoracic (lung) surgeons to clear a patient of disease.

Surgery for Patients with Metastatic Kidney Cancer (Cytoreductive Nephrectomy)

For most cancers, kidney cancer included, if the cancer has spread to other organs it is best treated with systemic medications and not surgery. For some kidney cancers, however, nephrectomy may improve symptoms, keep patients off medications and offer a better chance at cure. Kidney cancer experts at Johns Hopkins help patients with metastatic kidney cancer decide if and when surgery may help their disease.

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