The University of Chicago Kidney Cancer Program
The University of Chicago is a world leader in the treatment of kidney cancer. Urologists at the University of Chicago specialize in the latest open and laparoscopic surgical techniques to treat kidney tumors. In combination with colleagues in Medical Oncology and the Cancer Research Center, we offer a comprehensive and diverse option of therapies.
An Overview of Kidney Cancer
Most kidney masses (or tumors) are discovered incidentally – meaning that they are found by chance during radiologic studies obtained for an unrelated medical condition.
Most solid kidney masses (or tumors) are cancerous. Fortunately, many can be cured with surgery. Some kidney masses (or tumors) are not cancerous. For example, simple cysts, a type of renal mass, are often benign, meaning that they require no additional treatment.
The most common type of kidney cancer is renal cell carcinoma. Each year in the United States, approximately 30,000 new cases of renal cell carcinoma are identified. Many of these are found early in their course, when they are small and very treatable. CT or MRI scans demonstrating a “solid, contrast-enhancing mass” or a “complex cystic lesion” suggest the presence of kidney cancer. At the University of Chicago, we offer a variety of treatments for renal cell carcinoma, including radical nephrectomy (removing the entire kidney) and partial nephrectomy (removing just the cancerous part of the kidney). Minimally-invasive (or laparoscopic) techniques are used when applicable. However, if feasible, open surgery is preferred. We offer cryotherapy (freezing the tumor) as well as several drug treatments that can be sued in combination (or instead of surgery) depending on the size and extent of the tumor.
A second type of kidney cancer is called transitional cell cancer. This type of cancer is very similar to bladder cancer and can involve the kidney or the ureters, the tubes that empty the kidney and drain urine to the bladder. These cancers are relatively rare, affecting approximately 4,000 people in the United States each year. At the University of Chicago, we offer a variety of treatments for transitional cell carcinoma. Most patients undergo a nephroureterectomy – an operation in which the kidney and the adjoining ureters are removed. If the cancer is limited to a specific portion of the ureter, some patients are able to undergo a ureterectomy, an operation in which the kidney is preserved but the ureter is removed. Minimally invasive (laparoscopic) techniques are used when applicable, however, both open surgical and minimally-invasive (or laparoscopic) techniques are avaiable at the University of Chicago for both nephroureterectomy and ureterectomy. In very select cases, a patient may undergo endoscopic surgery, in which the tumor is removed while the kidney and ureter are left intact. This is rarely performed and depends upon the patient’s health as well as the aggressiveness, location, and extent of the cancer.
There are other tumors that can affect the kidney. Sarcomas are treated similarly to renal cell carcinoma. Angiomyolipomas (a tumor consisting of fat, muscle, and blood vessels) can be treated in a variety of ways: including surgery, embolization (blocking the blood supply to the tumor) and observation. Lymphomas are treated with drug therapies.
At the University of Chicago, we offer the latest and most comprehensive treatment for any type of kidney tumor. For an appointment with one of our kidney cancer specialists, click here.
Surgical Treatment Options for Kidney Cancer
Surgery is the main treatment for kidney cancers.
Radical Nephrectomy(click here for FAQs about Radical Nephrectomy)
Partial Nephrectomy and Nephron-sparing Surgery
Surgeons at the University of Chicago are trained in the most up-to-date and technologically-advanced methods of treating kidney cancers. At you appointment, your surgeon will be glad to discuss all of these treatment options with you, as well as any applicable clinical trial or experimental therapy.