Cancer occurs when cells of an area in the body start multiplying abnormally and uncontrollably, forming a lump of mass called a tumor. Tumors can be benign or malignant. When a malignant tumor is formed in the kidney, the condition is termed as a kidney cancer. Kidney cancer can be classified into five main types namely, renal cell carcinoma, urothelial carcinoma, sarcoma, wilms tumor, and lymphoma. There are different types of kidney cancer cells that cause each of these kidney cancers. For doctors, it is important to determine which cancer is caused by which kind of cancer cells. Although there are many different types of kidney cancer cells, some of the common ones include clear cell, papillary, sarcomatoid features, medullary, chromophobe, oncocytoma, and angiomyolipoma.
Which type of cell has caused the cancer is important for doctors to know as the treatment is then planned accordingly. Additionally, different treatment procedures also depend on other factors like cancer type, cancer stage, possible side effects of the treatments, patient’s preferred treatments, and the overall health of the patient. Different types of treatment procedures for kidney cancer are outlined as follows:
A surgery is performed to remove the tumor and the tissues that surround it. Doctors perform a surgery when the tumor has not spread to other organs. There are essentially three different types of surgeries to treat kidney cancer:
- Radical nephrectomy: In this surgery, doctors remove the tumor in the kidney by removing the kidney and the tissues surrounding the organ. Doctors also remove nearby lymph nodes, adrenal gland, or blood vessels these areas are affected by the cancer. Radical nephrectomy is usually performed when the tumor is large and has affected most healthy tissues nearby.
- Partial nephrectomy: This surgery is performed when the tumor is relatively smaller in size. Partial nephrectomy involves removal of just the tumor thereby preserving the organ’s function and limiting the chances of developing chronic kidney disease post surgery.
- Laparoscopic and minimally invasive surgery: In this surgery, doctors make a few small incisions in the abdomen and insert a telescopic instrument through the incisions to either completely remove the kidney or perform a partial nephrectomy.
- Non-surgical treatment for tumor: When the patient’s condition does not require a surgery, doctors opt for non-surgical ways to treat the tumor. These ways include radiofrequency ablation and cryoablation. Radiofrequency ablation is performed by inserting a needle into the tumor to eliminate the cancer by using an electric current.
- Cryoablation is a procedure where doctors freeze cancer cell by inserting a metal probe through a small incision. This metal probe reaches the cancer tissue with the help of a CT scan and ultrasound.
Systemic therapy for treating kidney cancer includes medication to eliminate cancer cells. The medication reaches the cancer cells in the kidney through the bloodstream and destroys them. There are three ways to give the medication—namely targeted therapy, immunotherapy, and chemotherapy:
- Targeted therapy: Medication targets only the specific cancer causing genes, tissues, or proteins and limit their growth and damage to the healthy cells.
- Immunotherapy: Medication is meant to boost body’s natural defenses, so it fights cancer.
- Chemotherapy: Chemo medication is meant to destroy cancer cells by destroying their ability to grow and divide any further.