Advances in treating kidney cancer

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By DeeDee Stiepan

Kidney cancer is one the most common cancers in the U.S., with 81,610 new cases estimated in 2024. Mayo Clinic sees a high volume of kidney cancer cases and is among the most experienced institutions in treating kidney tumors.

Watch this "Mayo Clinic Minute" video to hear Aaron Potretzke, M.D., a Mayo Clinic urologist, explain how advances in diagnostics and treatment have made kidney cancer more treatable than ever before:

Most kidney cancer is discovered at an early stage when the cancer is small and confined to the kidney.

"Many patients are diagnosed coincidentally by imaging of the abdomen with a small renal mass, and they have a lot of options," says Dr. Potretzke.

The surgical approach to kidney cancer has shifted over the years to preserving as much of the healthy kidney as possible. Mayo Clinic has adopted some of the most advanced techniques, such as use of robotics.

Dr. Aaron Potretzke performing robotic-assisted surgery.

"There is a focus, when it's safe and feasible, to removing just the tumor and leaving as much of the normal kidney behind as possible. Doing so is associated with increased long-term kidney function," says Dr. Potretzke.

Another option is to perform an ablation.

"They (radiologists) can stick a series of needles into the tumor and freeze it, or microwave it to death, and destroy the tumor while maintaining the normal, healthy kidney. And there is a fair bit of evidence that, in the correct patient, each one of those strategies can be really successful," says Dr. Potretzke.

Because many kidney tumors found early are relatively low risk, a third option is to keep a close eye on it, which is called active surveillance.

"Not everyone is a suitable candidate, but for patients with smaller renal masses, the risks of treatment may actually outweigh the potential benefits," adds Dr. Potretzke.

Learn more

Learn more about kidney cancer and find a clinical trial at Mayo Clinic.

Join the Kidney Cancer Support Group on Mayo Clinic Connect, an online community moderated by Mayo Clinic for patients and caregivers.

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A version of this article was originally published on the Mayo Clinic News Network.