Most tumors, or masses, of the kidney are discovered incidentally. This means that most patients do not have any pain, blood in the urine, or other symptoms that lead to the diagnosis. In this day and age when CTs, MRIs, and ultrasounds are common, the kidneys are often imaged while a non-related complaint ("my stomach hurts") is being evaluated. This is good news because most kidney cancers are discovered at a very treatable and curable stage.
And what is the typical treatment? Observation or surgery. Radiation therapy is not recommended because it does not work. Chemotherapy is reserved for cases where the cancer has spread beyond the kidney. Observation is indicated for small renal masses that can be safely watched, especially in patients with medical co-morbidities that make surgery more risky.
The size and location of the mass is taken into consideration with surgery. For large masses, the entire kidney is typically removed (nephrectomy). A large incision is required for the largest of these masses, though typically laparoscopic approach is better.
For smaller masses, partial nephrectomy is preferred. This requires clamping the main artery to the kidney to excise the portion of the kidney with the mass and probably requires more skill than any other urological surgery. However, the benefit is that its as effective for treating kidney cancers and removing the entire kidney with the added benefit of preserving more functioning kidney tissue to prevent kidney failure.
Cryoablation or "freezing" or radiofrequency or "microwaving" of small renal masses can also be performed in select cases.
Since 2002, Dr. Showalter, along with Dr. Jackson and Dr. Stewart have brought the latest and greatest training and skill in providing these procedures.