Kidney-sparing Surgery Improves Survival in Study

Researchers at the University of Michigan Comprehensive Cancer Center have found that patients with early stage kidney cancer lived longer when only part of their kidney was removed, instead of the entire kidney. Patients were equally likely to survive kidney cancer no matter which kind of surgery they received, but were less likely to die from other causes if they had the partial surgery. The obvious benefit to partial surgery is that the patient keeps more of their kidney function.

The study looked at 7,138 Medicare patients with early stage kidney cancer who were treated with surgery. After an average of 5 years, 25% of patients who had only the part of their kidney containing the tumor removed had died. In comparison, 42% of patients who had their entire kidney removed had died. The study was published in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

Surgically removing only part of the kidney – called partial nephrectomy – is now the preferred treatment for patients with early stage kidney cancer. It is often done to remove single small tumors (those less than 4 cm across), and is being done more in patients with tumors up to 7 cm across. Partial nephrectomies are generally not done for larger tumors, if there is more than one tumor in the same kidney, or if the cancer has spread to the lymph nodes or distant organs. They also may not be possible if the tumor is in the middle part of the kidney.

Not all doctors are able to do this type of surgery. It should only be done by someone with a lot of experience doing this procedure.

The American Cancer Society medical and editorial content team
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Long-term Survival Following Partial vs Radical Nephrectomy Among Older Patients With Early-Stage Kidney Cancer. Published in the April 18, 2012 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association (Vol. 307, No. 15). First author: Hung-Jui Tan, MD, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor.

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