Urology Clinic / Urologic Oncology / Kidney Cancer

Kidney Cancer

Kidney cancer afflicts about 36,000 people in the U.S. each year. The most common type of kidney cancer renal-cell carcinoma accounts for 85% of kidney tumors and occurs twice as often in men as in women. It mostly occurs in people between the ages of 50 and 70.

Surgery is the most effective treatment for kidney cancer, and Vanderbilt has 3 fellowship-trained urologic surgeons who focus on urologic cancers.

Depending upon the size and location of the tumor, partial nephrectomy (removal of the tumor only) may be done. For large tumors or cancer that has spread to nearby areas, our surgeons have years of experience dealing with complex cases.

In many cases, we use a laparoscopic approach to kidney surgery, meaning we use minimally invasive techniques that dont require large incisions. This cuts down on pain after surgery as well as recovery time. Vanderbilts laparoscopic surgeons are internationally recognized in their field.

Kidney Cancer Treatment

Treatment for kidney cancer depends on the size of the tumor, how deeply it has invaded the kidney, and whether it has spread to other parts of the body. Treatment may include surgery, chemotherapy, radiation therapy or immunological therapy.

Surgery is the most common treatment for kidney cancer; often its the only effective option. There are different types of surgery for renal-cell carcinoma. Partial nephrectomy, in which only the part of the kidney containing the cancer is removed, is one option. This is considered a more difficult surgery and Vanderbilts surgeons have extensive experience in this technique.

The standard surgery is radical nephrectomy, in which the entire kidney is removed, along with the nearby adrenal gland, fatty tissue and lymph nodes. Many people live healthy lives with only one kidney, so this procedure does not necessarily affect quality of life.

For cancer that hasnt spread outside the kidney, radiation and chemotherapy are not effective; surgery remains the only effective choice. For kidney cancer that has spread outside the kidney, options such as radiation, chemotherapy and immunotherapy play a more important role.