Kidney Cancer

16 February, 2023

Nephrectomy is a surgical procedure to remove all or part of the kidney. They are two main types

  1. Radical nephrectomy is where the entire kidney is removed.
  2. Partial nephrectomy, where only the diseased or damaged tissue of the kidney is removed.

Radical nephrectomy is a major surgery involving removing the entire kidney, adrenal gland, and surrounding tissue. In this article, we will talk about radical nephrectomy performed in case of kidney cancer.

Kidney Cancer And Its Symptoms

Kidney cancer begins with abnormal growth of cells in the kidney that can get converted into a tumour. Renal cell carcinoma is the most common form of kidney cancer found in adults, whereas Wilms’ tumour is common in children. 

The signs and symptoms of kidney cancer are given below.

  • Blood in the urine: This can cause the urine to appear pink, red, or brown in colour.
  • Pain in the side or lower back: This can be a dull ache or sharp pain and may come and go.
  • Mass or lump in the side or lower back: A mass or lump may be felt by the patient or detected during a physical exam.
  • Fatigue: Patients with kidney cancer may experience fatigue, weakness, and malaise.
  • Loss of appetite and weight loss: Patients may also experience a decrease in appetite and unintentional weight loss.
  • High blood pressure: Kidney cancer can cause high blood pressure, which can be a sign of the disease.
  • Swelling in the legs and ankles: This may occur due to fluid buildup in the body.

Benefits of Radical Nephrectomy

To relieve patients of pain and discomfort, radical nephrectomy is the solution. Some of the key benefits of the same are discussed below.

    1. Complete Removal Of Cancer: Radical nephrectomy removes the entire kidney, which can help prevent cancer spread and minimise the risk of recurrence.
    2. Improved Survival: Patients who undergo radical nephrectomy have a better chance of survival than those who only receive other forms of treatment, such as partial nephrectomy or observation.
    3. Relief Of Symptoms: In some cases, patients with kidney cancer may experience pain, blood in the urine, or a mass or lump in the side or lower back. Radical nephrectomy can help to alleviate these symptoms.
    4. Better Quality Of Life: Patients may experience improved energy levels and a better quality of life after the procedure, as cancer has been removed and symptoms have been relieved.
    5. Improved Kidney Function: In some cases, the remaining kidney can compensate for the loss of the removed kidney, leading to improved kidney function.

Risk with Radical Nephrectomy

When kidney cancer spreads to the entire kidney, in that case, radical nephrectomy is the only solution to save the patient. Though beneficial, it has some risks associated with it as well. These risks are

  1. Bleeding: During surgery, excessive bleeding is risky and may require additional treatments or blood transfusions.
  2. Pain: Patients may experience moderate to severe pain and discomfort after the procedure, requiring pain management medication.
  3. Infection: There is a risk of infection at the surgical site, which can be treated with antibiotics.
  4. Nerve Damage: The procedure may cause damage to the nerves in the area, leading to numbness, tingling, or other sensory changes.
  5. Urinary Problems: Patients may have difficulty urinating after the surgery and may need to use a catheter temporarily.
  6. Heart And Lung Complications: The procedure can stress the heart and lungs, and patients with pre-existing heart or lung conditions may be at higher risk for complications.
  7. Renal Dysfunction: If the remaining kidney cannot compensate for the loss of the removed kidney, this can lead to kidney dysfunction and chronic kidney disease.

Techniques of Radical Nephrectomy

There are three ways in which radical nephrectomy can be performed.

    1. Open Radical Nephrectomy: This is the traditional method of performing a radical nephrectomy and involves making a large incision in the side or lower back to access the kidney.
    2. Laparoscopic Radical Nephrectomy: This minimally invasive approach uses small incisions and specialised instruments to remove the kidney through a camera-assisted laparoscope.
    3. Robot-Assisted Radical Nephrectomy: This minimally invasive approach uses a robot to perform the procedure through small incisions.

Both open and minimally invasive radical nephrectomies can be performed with general anaesthesia and typically take several hours to complete. The choice of technique depends on the patient’s individual circumstances, including the size and location of the tumour, as well as the patient’s overall health and medical history.

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