Kidney cancer: Causes, diagnosis, drawbacks of conventional surgery, breakthrough treatments
Preserving kidney health: Here's all you need to know about the causes and diagnosis of kidney cancer, conventional surgery drawbacks and some breakthrough ones
Kidney cancer, also known as renal cell carcinoma, is a type of cancer that originates in the cells of the kidneys and it is relatively common and accounts for around 2-3% of all adult cancers. Traditionally, the treatment for kidney cancer involved the complete removal of the affected kidney but advancements in medical technology have led to the development of kidney-preserving surgeries, offering a more conservative approach without compromising oncological outcomes.
Causes and Prevalence
In an interview with HT Lifestyle, Dr Pradeep Rao, Director and Head of Department Urology at Global Hospital in Mumbai's Parel, shared, “The exact cause of kidney cancer is not always clear but certain risk factors have been identified. These include smoking, obesity, high blood pressure, and a family history of kidney cancer. Men are at a slightly higher risk than women, and the risk increases with age. Kidney cancer can remain asymptomatic in its early stages, making early diagnosis and intervention crucial.”
Dr Pradeep Rao revealed, “Diagnosing kidney cancer involves a combination of medical history assessment, physical examination, and diagnostic tests. Imaging techniques such as ultrasound and computed tomography (CT) scans play a pivotal role in identifying abnormalities in the kidneys. These imaging tools can detect tumours at an early stage, allowing for timely intervention. In recent years, advancements in these imaging technologies have significantly improved the accuracy of diagnosis, enabling medical professionals to catch kidney cancer in its early stages.”
Conventional Surgery and Its Drawbacks
Historically, the primary treatment for kidney cancer involved radical nephrectomy, which is the complete removal of the affected kidney. Dr Pradeep Rao said, “While this approach has been effective in removing cancerous tissue, it comes with a significant drawback: the loss of kidney function. Removing an entire kidney can lead to long-term health complications, including kidney failure, requiring patients to undergo dialysis or kidney transplantation.”
Emergence of Kidney Preserving Surgeries
According to Dr Pradeep Rao, the medical community's growing understanding of the importance of kidney function has paved the way for kidney-preserving surgeries, also known as nephron-sparing surgeries. He asserted that these innovative techniques aim to remove cancerous tissue while preserving as much of the healthy kidney tissue as possible and this approach is particularly beneficial for patients with tumours located in a single part of the kidney or smaller tumours. He highlighted -
- Laparoscopy and Robotic Advancements
Laparoscopy, a minimally invasive surgical technique, and robotic-assisted surgery have revolutionized the field of kidney cancer treatment. These approaches allow surgeons to precisely target and remove only the tumour while leaving the unaffected kidney tissue intact. Unlike conventional surgeries, where the entire kidney is removed, these advanced procedures offer a way to maintain kidney function and overall health.
- Oncological Outcomes and Recovery
One common concern with kidney-preserving surgeries is whether they compromise oncological outcomes. However, research has shown that when performed by skilled surgeons, these procedures have similar outcomes in terms of cancer control as conventional radical nephrectomy. This means that patients can benefit from preserving kidney function without compromising their chances of beating cancer.
Furthermore, kidney-preserving surgeries performed laparoscopically or robotic, offer a shorter recovery period and reduced hospital stay compared to radical nephrectomy. Patients experience less pain, minimal scarring, and a quicker return to their daily activities. This is particularly important for older patients and those with pre-existing health conditions who may be at higher risk for complications.
Dr Pradeep Rao concluded, “The landscape of kidney cancer treatment has evolved significantly in recent years, thanks to innovative technologies and surgical techniques. Kidney-preserving surgeries are changing the paradigm of kidney cancer treatment by providing a more conservative approach that preserves kidney function without sacrificing oncological outcomes. With early diagnosis facilitated by improved imaging technologies, patients now have the opportunity to explore treatments that prioritize their overall health and well-being. As medical advancements continue to unfold, the future of kidney cancer treatment looks promising, promising a better quality of life for patients while effectively addressing the disease.”