An expert explains the different types of kidney cancer surgeries, and what patients can expect to experience after the procedure.
There are multiple types of kidney cancer surgery nowadays, from traditional open surgery to minimally invasive surgery, which can be done either laparoscopically or robotically.
When determining which kind of surgery to choose, patients and clinicians must discuss which option will be the safest and offer the best cancer control, explained Dr. Eric A. Singer, a urologic oncologist.
“With minimally invasive surgery, the incisions are smaller. It’s the same big operation on the inside, but smaller incisions, which often translates to a faster recovery,” Singer said in an interview with CURE®.
Minimally invasive surgery, which can either be done by hand (laparoscopically) or robotically can be used for both full and partial removal of the kidney, known as a nephrectomy. The procedure includes the creation of a small incision and then using special tools to take out all or part of the kidney.
Another type of surgery that does not result in a major incision is percutaneous ablation, where clinicians will put in a probe or needle and either freeze or use heat to destroy the tumors.
While minimally invasive procedures can be easier to recover from and result in less pain and blood loss, not all patients with kidney cancer are eligible for this type of procedure.
Singer mentioned that in his practice, about 25% of kidney cancer surgery are open surgeries.
These can be the safest option for some patients — especially those with larger or complicated tumors that require a team of clinicians (such as a vascular surgeon, surgical oncologist, cardiac surgeon and other team members) to operate on.
“(An open surgery) is going to give everyone the exposure that they need to make the surgery safe and work best,” Singer explained.
After a patient undergoes kidney cancer surgery, the recovery is similar to that of most other major surgeries, according to Singer, who noted that patients and their providers should be on the lookout for bleeding or infection.
Patients who had a partial nephrectomy may also be at risk for urinoma, a rare complication that occurs when urine leaks out of the kidney.
“Fortunately, the risks of those things are all very, very low in terms of how we do modern kidney surgery,” Singer said. “The biggest things that we’re looking at after surgery is making sure pain is controlled, getting people up and moving and making sure that we have people on the right medicine at the right doses.”
Singer explained that patients receiving certain drugs that affect kidney function may need to have their doses altered.
Ultimately, Singer emphasized that patient-provider communication is key after kidney cancer surgery so that any potential complications can be quickly addressed.
“I hate surprises,” he said. “If there’s something going on, we want to know about it so we can make sure that everybody’s on the same page and on the right path to recovery.”
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