If you are facing kidney (renal) cancer, you are not alone. Cancer of the kidneys is one of the top ten most common cancers in the United States, and its incidence appears to be rising.

Urology specialists at University of Missouri Health Care are highly experienced in diagnosing and treating renal cancer. We work closely with you to develop a personalized treatment and management plan that is best for you and your needs.

Urology at MU Health Care was recognized by U.S. News & World Report as a “high performing specialty,” meaning we are in the top 10 percent out of 1500 urology programs in the country. We are proud of this ranking and seek to uphold this standard each day in the high quality care we provide each of our patients.

Symptoms of kidney cancer

The symptoms of kidney cancer vary widely. In many people with kidney cancer, the primary symptom is blood in the urine – either visually detectable or found under microscopic analysis.

How kidney cancer is diagnosed

In many cases, kidney cancer is diagnosed incidentally when a person is undergoing imaging tests for another condition or problem. If your doctor suspects you may have kidney cancer, he or she will likely recommend the following to aid in diagnosis:

  • Complete physical exam. Your doctor performs a physical examination and gathers a history from you to better understand your signs and symptoms related to kidney cancer.
  • Biopsy. Your doctor gathers a small tissue sample (biopsy) from the kidney for closer examination in the lab.
  • Computed tomography (CT) scan. A CT scan allows your doctor to obtain a detailed picture of your kidneys and surrounding tissue.

Treatments for kidney cancer

MU Health Care offers a wide spectrum of treatment for kidney cancer. The treatment options available to each person depend on the type and progression of kidney cancer, as well as the person’s overall health.

The treatments we offer include:

  • Ablative therapies. Completed in collaboration with our interventional radiology team, your doctor can use heating or freezing to reduce or remove the affected cells. We have experience in using percutaneous cryoablation for small and intermediate-sized kidney cancers, which is safely performed with only local anesthetic and mild sedation.
  • Jelmyto (mitomycin gel): For cancers that grow in the upper part of the urinary system, known as urothelial cancer, our surgeons can administer Jelmyto, a chemotherapy agent in a gel form, in the urinary tract. The gel specifically targets the hard to reach cancer cells usually found in the tissue lining or kidney. This treatment is administered via a catheter from the back directly to the cancer site for six weeks and is the only FDA-approved drug for urothelial cancer.
  • Active surveillance. In some cases – especially when the cancer is diagnosed early – patients can delay or defer definitive treatment to avoid the side effects of therapy.
  • Partial or radical nephrectomy. In advanced cases of kidney cancer, partial or full removal of one or both kidneys may be necessary to remove the cancer cells. Depending on each patient’s circumstances, we offer partial nephrectomy in a traditional or robot-assisted procedure. We offer radical nephrectomy through many approaches, including open (traditional), laparoscopic (using small incisions and tiny instruments) or robot-assisted.

Research on kidney cancer

We offer participation in research trials in combination with medical oncologists and radiation oncologists, for some patients. Our team boasts leading international expertise in the robot-assisted removal of tumors, including those invading into surrounding structures such as the inferior vena cava (a large vein). As part of ongoing research, we have seen a dramatic increase in the number of patients successfully treated with a robot-assisted, partial nephrectomy.

Talk with your MU Health Care urologist if you would like to learn more about the research trials that are currently available.