Surgery is the primary treatment for kidney tumors. A new research supports a nonsurgical approach for certain patients to remove the tumors and avoid the surgery. The procedure is called percutaneous ablation, to use a needle to zap the kidney tumor with either heat or cold.
The procedure isn’t applicable to all kidney cancer patients, but for a “well-selected” group with small tumors (under 4 centimeters in diameter). A recent study shows the procedure may result in long-term survival equal to that of surgery, with five times fewer complications, and less kidney insufficiency.
The researchers published the findings June 25 in the Annals of Internal Medicine.
Treatment options keep evolving, from the days of open incision to laparoscopic and robotic removal, allowing for improved recovery and preservation of kidney function.
But ablation isn’t a perfect solution, because it only works for small tumors, and tumors that don’t grow next to another organ, as the energy to destroy the tumor can cause injury to other sites.
In the new study, the research team has tracked post-procedure complications and five-year outcomes for more than 4,300 patients diagnosed with early stage kidney cancer, with tumors under 4 centimeters wide. Patients averaged 66 years of age. They’ve found that patients had similar overall five-year kidney cancer survival whether they received surgery to remove a part of the kidney (98 percent survival) or ablation (95 percent). The odds of surviving kidney cancer after five years were similarly high as well when comparing ablation to complete kidney removal.
When the researchers looked at deaths from any cause, five-year survival was somewhat higher for patients who got surgery (86 percent) versus those who underwent ablation (77 percent).
However, there may have been a payoff for ablation in terms of quality of life—people who got the procedure were more likely to retain good kidney function than those who got surgery, the research team noted.
This new option for treating kidney cancer can be helpful especially for elderly patients, it can preserve kidney function and help stave off potentially fatal kidney failure. This will significantly improve the life quality of elderly patients with early stage kidney cancer.