Preparing for kidney cancer surgery encapsulates a full-body approach, which can help improve outcomes after the procedure.
A urologic oncologist advises patients to address health concerns and potentially get a second opinion before undergoing surgery for kidney cancer, both of which may improve outcomes in the long run.
Finding the right surgeon is the first step to ensuring the best possible outcomes for kidney cancer surgery, said Dr. Eric A. Singer, a urologic surgeon, in an interview with CURE®.
“You want to find a surgeon who you feel comfortable with — someone who ideally does a lot of kidney cancer surgery … at a hospital that does a lot of (these) surgeries,” Singer said, noting that patients should seek out National Cancer Institute (NCI)-designated cancer centers, if possible.
NCI-designated cancer centers tend to have clinicians who are experts in kidney cancer surgery, and therefore may lead to better patient outcomes, Singer explained.
The next, according to Singer, is to manage other health conditions — such as heart or lung issues — as best as possible. To do so, Singer advises patients to visit their other medical specialists (cardiologists, pulmonologists, etc.) and alert them about their upcoming kidney cancer surgery. This allows a patient’s team to address any issues that may occur during or after the procedure. These doctors should go over prescriptions with patients to make sure that they are taking the correct dose.
Outside of the realm of health care, patients can also act on their own to prepare weeks before surgery.
“Something that is really hard to do, but is important, is cut down or stop smoking if you are a smoker,” Singer said. “Probably the most difficult thing I ask patients to do is to give up smoking, but it has so many health benefits.”
Singer also mentioned that patients should be exercise to some extent.
“So even if you’re not as active as you used to be, even just getting some walks in every day is going to help you get back on your feet and recover faster after surgery,” Singer said. “We don’t need you to be able to do a triathlon, but walking, being able to walk up and down stairs and use all your core muscle groups … the more fit you are going into the surgery, often the speedier your recovery will be.”
On the day of kidney cancer surgery, patients can expect to undergo a series of safety checks in the pre-anesthesia area, where medications and the type of operation will be confirmed, among other important factors.
Then the surgeon, anesthesiologist and other doctors, if necessary, will perform the procedure. The procedure can range from a full, open surgery to a robotic minimally invasive surgery, which may be less painful. Regardless of the surgery type, Singer said that clinicians work together to manage the patient’s pain.
“With the great work we have with our anesthesia colleagues in terms of what we call regional anesthesia — so using special medicines to block different nerves — we’re able to really give some excellent pain control while minimizing narcotic or opioid use,” he said. “We’re (trying to) get people moving in and out of bed, and walking the day of surgery.”
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