The kidneys are two large, bean-shaped organs on either side of the spine below the rib cage. The kidneys filter blood—about 45 gallons a day—separating out waste products into urine. Urine then flows into the renal collecting system and down the ureter to the bladder and is stored there until it leaves the body.
About 51,200 men and women are diagnosed with kidney cancer each year in the United States. Men are affected almost twice as often as women probably because of the higher prevalence of smoking in men and their higher exposure to environmental carcinogens in the workplace. Children rarely develop the disease. The most common type of kidney cancer in adults is renal cell cancer, which accounts for about 85 percent of kidney tumors. Wilm's tumor is the most common type of kidney cancer in children (see Pediatric Cancer).
Our Approach to Kidney Cancer Treatment
Traditionally, the most widely used treatment for kidney cancer was removal of the entire affected kidney—a procedure called a radical nephrectomy. But studies show that people who have had a radical nephrectomy are more likely to develop problems in the remaining kidney. At Columbia University Department of Urology at NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital the vast majority of patients with kidney cancer undergo a partial nephrectomy. We have developed minimally invasive kidney surgery techniques enabling us to remove the tumor while preserving as much of the affected kidney as possible. If patients are suitable candidates, we can perform laparoscopic partial and radical nephrectomies to remove kidney tumors. Patients treated with these procedures have less pain and a shorter recovery time than those who undergo traditional kidney surgery. Surgeons here are among the most experienced in the world in treating kidney cancer with these minimally invasive approaches. Some patients do not need to have their tumor removed; instead surgeons can treat their tumor using a minimally invasive technique called cryosurgery.
Our doctors work closely with nephrologists, medical oncologists, and radiation oncologists at NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital/Columbia to ensure that patients who are not eligible for surgery, who require a combination of therapies, or who opt for a different approach receive optimal care.
Research and Achievements in Kidney Cancer Treatment
Columbia Urology doctors are also on the faculty at Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons where they conduct research, including clinical trials, on treatments for kidney cancer. This research is at the vanguard of its field. We conduct clinical trials on a range of novel and promising treatments for the disease. Our urologic oncologists work collaboratively with each other and with other departments to provide a comprehensive and integrated program of innovative research designed to improve the diagnosis and therapy of kidney cancer.
Our doctors have already made important contributions to the advancement of kidney cancer treatment. We offer:
- Screening for Kidney Cancer: Developed the world's first blood test for kidney cancer.
- Advanced Therapies for Kidney Cancer Treatment: Studied the anti-tumor effects of a novel intravenous formulation of retinoic acid with interferon that has resulted in significant tumor reduction in a number of patients with advanced kidney cancer.
- Minimally Invasive Surgery for Kidney Cancer: Pioneered the use of partial nephrectomy and laparoscopic techniques for biopsy or tumor removal. Additionally, we have pioneered work on optimizing patient selection for minimally invasive treatment options.
- Difficult Cases of Kidney Cancer: Excellent experience with patients who have very difficult kidney cancers that have invaded surrounding areas.
Individualized Care for Patients with Kidney Cancer
Patients across the U.S. and worldwide seek the skills and technology offered by Columbia Urology's doctors. That's because we provide individualized, expert care that gives each patient the maximum chance of a cure for his or her disease while preserving both the maximum amount of kidney tissue and thereby maintaining the best quality of life.