An estimated 39,000 new cases of renal, also known as kidney, cancer are detected annually in the United States and the incidence is increasing at roughly 3% per year. Many renal masses are discovered incidentally as part of radiographic studies obtained in patients for other health reasons. Solid tumors of the kidney have about an 80% chance of representing renal cell carcinoma (a malignancy) while the remainder is composed of benign lesions like oncocytoma or angiomyolipoma.
Unfortunately, the ability to predict the type and nature of the renal mass remains limited. While observation is appropriate in some carefully selected patients, many will need to undergo surgery to remove the abnormality. This has traditionally been done by removing the entire kidney which contained the tumor through a large incision in the abdomen or flank. Fortunately, minimally invasive surgical techniques, with smaller incisions, can often be used to speed recovery and minimize pain without sacrificing surgical control.
More recently, nephron sparing surgery has been adopted for a majority of the smaller lesions that present to the Urologist. This option allows removal of the tumor while leaving the majority of the healthy kidney in place. Your Urologist will help to educate you about which approach is best for your particular condition.