When renal cell carcinoma (RCC) is diagnosed early, it’s usually localized or confined to the kidney, where it first starts. Localized RCC can generally be cured through surgery.1
Surgeries to treat localized RCC are grouped by the amount of kidney tissue the procedure intends to remove. Guidelines refer to them as either partial or radical nephrectomy (nephrectomy, removal of the kidney). For certain patients, guidelines also recommend a third option called ablation, to kill tumours using heat or freezing.2,3
Treatments for localized RCC
|Radical nephrectomy||The whole kidney is removed along with tumours, the adrenal gland, and adjacent lymph nodes and fat.2,3|
|Partial nephrectomy||Only the part of the kidney affected by tumour(s) is removed to allow the kidney maintain as much of its function as possible.2,3|
|Ablation||Several methods exist for directly killing tumours by ablation. The most commonly used method uses a needle to apply heat or cold within the tumour to achieve killing.4|
The choice between partial or radical nephrectomy usually depends on the size of the tumour, where it is, and how many tumours there are. Partial nephrectomy is thought to be as effective as radical nephrectomy, with the added benefit of preserving kidney function.2,3
Guidelines also note that ablation is often reserved for older patients who might not tolerate surgery, or for patients with small tumours that are less than 4 cm in diameter.2
While surgery can remove tumours completely, RCC may not always stay away. The risk of RCC coming back after surgery is highest within the first 2-3 years.5
After the tumours are removed, it may be prudent to talk to the doctor about regular checkups to make sure RCC stays gone.
To learn more:
References: 1. UpToDate. Definitive surgical management of renal cell carcinoma. Available at http://www.uptodate.com. Accessed on August 23, 2016. 2. National Comprehensive Cancer Network. NCCN guidelines: Kidney cancer version 3.2016. Available at: https://www.nccn.org. Accessed on August 11, 2016. 3. Escudier B, et al. Ann Oncol 2014;25(Suppl 3):iii49-iii56. 4. UpToDate. Radiofrequency ablation and cryoablation for renal cell carcinoma. Available at http://www.uptodate.com. Accessed on August 23, 2016. 5. UpToDate. Surveillance for metastatic disease after definitive treatment for renal cell carcinoma. Available at http://www.uptodate.com. Accessed on August 23, 2016.