WHAT IS KIDNEY CANCER?
Kidney cancer usually affects only one side, but in rare instances, the cancer can develop in both kidneys.
It affects twice as many men as women and environmental factors such as smoking and diabetes increase the risk of developing kidney cancer.
Today, most kidney cancers are discovered by chance on imaging and at an early stage and have an excellent prognosis. In Australia, the five year survival rate of all is 75%
Because kidney cancers often have no symptoms or signs, the majority of tumours are detected with abdominal imagining such as ultrasound, CT or MRI- often for investigation of unrelated problems.
Tumours have characteristic appearances on these scans and most patients can be reliably diagnosed based on imaging alone. However, some benign lesions can also appear indistinguishable from cancers and so a biopsy of the mass can be helpful in determining the contents and whether or not treatment is necessary.
Depending on the size of the tumour and general health of the patient, some kidney cancers can be observed and do not require any intervention.
The size and location of the mass also determines what surgical technique can be safely employed to remove the cancer. The goal of all kidney cancer surgery is to remove the the mass entirely while preserving as much kidney function as possible. To achieve this, removal of the cancer only (partial nephrectomy) is the operation of choice whenever possible and this can be done via keyhole or open techniques.
For larger lesion or those located in unfavourable locations, removal of the entire kidney may be required to achieve cancer cure. These decisions will be discussed with each patient when planning a bespoke treatment plan.