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Goal of Surgery for Kidney Cancer

Surgery is the most common treatment for kidney cancer. It is the standard of care for kidney cancer that has not spread to other areas of the body. Its goal is to take out the tumor or tumors. Depending on the size of your tumor and where it is, your surgeon may take out all or part of your kidney(s). In some cases your surgeon may also take out nearby lymph nodes. That's because cancer may travel to the nodes first. Taking out the lymph nodes may help prevent the spread of cancer to other parts of your body. The results of the surgery can help to predict the chances that it will come back. This is called staging the cancer.

Kidney cancer surgery may be done using traditional surgical methods to remove the kidney, or in some cases by using laparoscopy. Laparoscopic surgery is a less invasive surgical technique that uses instruments placed through several small openings. It usually involves less time in the hospital after surgery, with less pain and a quicker recovery.

Surgery may also help people whose cancer has spread. If your cancer has spread to only a single area, your doctor may suggest surgery to remove the kidney as well as tumors far from your kidney. Here are some instances when surgery may be recommended for advanced kidney cancer:

  • To take out a single metastatic lesion, such as in your lungs

  • To ease symptoms

  • To prevent life-threatening problems

Your medical team will review the surgical options appropriate to your condition. To help deal with the medical information and remember all your questions, it is helpful to bring a family member or close friend with you to doctors' appointments. In addition, a written list will make it easier for you to remember your questions.