Surgery for Kidney Cancer

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Our expert kidney cancer surgeons will evaluate your condition based on information such as the size and location of the kidney tumor. Surgery is often all that is needed to remove kidney tumors that have not spread.

Your surgeon will choose the kind of surgery that’s best for you. We may do traditional open surgery or minimally invasive surgery. Minimally invasive surgery can mean a faster recovery and less pain. This method uses laparoscopic or robotic tools. With robotics, we make small incisions (surgical cuts) in the wall of your abdomen (belly).

Types of surgeries for kidney cancer:


Partial Nephrectomy for Kidney Tumors

A partial nephrectomy often is called kidney-sparing (or nephron-sparing) surgery. We remove the tumor but leave behind some healthy kidney tissue. This is done to save normal kidney function.

MSK researchers and other scientists have studied partial nephrectomy. They found for small kidney tumors, it has similar results to a complete nephrectomy, but saves kidney function.

Our surgeons are very experienced in partial nephrectomies. They often can do a laparoscopic or robotic partial nephrectomy. They use smaller instruments and many small incisions (surgical cuts) to remove tissue.

Radical Nephrectomy

A radical nephrectomy is when we have to remove the entire kidney. Your surgeon may recommend this procedure if you have large tumors.

Surgery for Upper Tract Urothelial Tumors

Surgery can treat urothelial cell tumors of the kidneys and ureters. Surgeons may remove the kidney, ureter, or a small piece of the bladder.

Your surgeon can do laparoscope and robotic-assisted surgery, using smaller incisions (surgical cuts). They may find a urothelial cell tumor on the surface of your renal pelvis or a ureter. If they do, they may be able to save your kidney with laser surgery. This method uses a narrow beam of light to remove cancer cells from inside your kidney.

Your surgeon also may remove nearby lymph nodes. Pathologists will examine the lymph nodes to look for cancer.

Surgery for Kidney Cancer That Has Metastasized (Spread)

Our specialist surgeons may recommend surgery even if your kidney cancer already has spread to other places. They can do the surgery either before or after you get medications to shrink your tumor. A urologic surgeon may remove a kidney tumor that is bleeding or causing pain. They also may remove a kidney cancer tumor that has spread to another part of your body.

Your care team will always talk with you to make important decisions about complicated surgical plans. Your surgeon will work with your MSK medical oncologist (cancer doctor) who treats you with medication (systemic therapy).