Partial Surgery for Kidney Cancer

Renal cancer decreased mortality with partial nephrectomy

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) Treating cancer by surgery began with the idea of removing as much tissue as possible to make sure there was no cancer left behind. This belief has slowly begun to change over years with research pointing to new therapies.

Research looking back at the difference in long term survival in kidney cancer patients over a fifteen year period found that a partial removal generally was associated with better results than when the entire kidney was removed.

"Ask your surgeon about partial nephrectomy."

Since it was a retrospective study, it is difficult to know what the choice by the surgeon was based on, but researchers stated in their findings that either surgery was equally likely to completely remove the cancer.

Records from 7,138 Medicare beneficiaries with early stage kidney cancer were analyzed to compare survival over the five years following the surgery. For patients who had a partial removal, 75 percent were alive five years later. For those had had a kidney completely removed, 56 percent were still alive five years later.

Kidney function decreases over time, and a sudden halving of the body's remaining ability to filter toxins out of the blood can cause a lot of problems.

The newer philosophy of preserving as much healthy tissue as possible is reflected in the recent change in breast cancer surgery, as surgeons increasingly choose to perform more lumpectomies and less mastectomies, which generally means fewer complications for the patient.

"As more and more people are identified with these small, early stage cancers, there's more interest in understanding how best to treat these patients," says senior study author David C. Miller, MD.

"This study does not suggest every patient with early stage kidney cancer should get a partial nephrectomy. It supports the notion that we need to expand the use of partial nephrectomy and make it a preferred treatment choice for patients with small tumors as much as possible, to optimize long term survival," Dr. Miller stated.

The study was published in the April 18 edition of the Journal of the American Medical Association.

Researchers stated that there was no financial conflict of interest in the study's publication.

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Review Date: 
April 19, 2012
Last Updated:
April 21, 2012