Fighting the Good Fight against kidney cancer

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It’s a cancer that’s cause remains largely a mystery. Some 35,000 people in this country are diagnosed with kidney cancer each year and more than 12,000 will die of the disease this year alone. The good news is that if detected and treated early, the chances for a full recovery are good. Now a new, less invasive surgical treatment is available, that will help kidney cancer patients get back on their feet even faster.

76-year-old Wayne Campbell is a survivor. A former Navy man, he’s survived three wars, two heart attacks, and a number of other ailments. Then he started noticing an unusual pain on one side. A Cushing urologist discovered the cancerous mass in Campbell’s left kidney. “He recommended that I see Dr. Wong rather than him doing the surgery and having to open me up the way the old procedure for this was. And it sounded a lot better to me.”

Dr. Carson Wong at the OU Medical Center, performs these procedures through a minimally invasive technique, utilizing laparoscopy.

Because of Campbell’s other health problems, his referring physician and Dr. Wong both felt this less invasive approach would be the best option for him. Instead of the large incision from stem-to-stern that would be necessary with open kidney cancer surgery, Wong is able to accomplish the same procedure through much smaller openings (approximately one centimeter in diameter).

“First of all we make what we call little port sites, which are probably incisions around that big (uses hands to show size) to allow us to introduce trocars, which are basically tunnels or conduits through which we can introduce instruments from the outside world into the abdominal cavity.”

Utilizing those tools, Wong puts his skills to work. First isolating the kidney, then removing it and the cancer. It’s all done remotely, much like a video game. “So you’re watching a two-dimensional image on a two-dimensional television screen, and you are performing things in a three-dimensional space.”

Dr. Wong says with this minimally invasive technique, the surgery is easier on the patient, there is minimal scarring, and less time in the hospital afterwards. However, he stresses it’s not for everyone. “Efficiancy and patient safety are our number one concern. And I tell them, if either of those is compromised, I will not hesitate to cut you open. You may wake up with a scar. Because you know we don’t do this just for our egos to say that we can perform laparoscopically, that’s not the reason we do these. We do these because hopefully, It’s a procedure that will benefit them and will improve upon the results of what the current standard of the standard has been in this case.”

Campbell, however, is convinced it was the right choice for him. “Since having the operation, I’m real glad I went that way.”

This sort of laparoscopic kidney cancer removal typically means minimal blood loss during surgery and a shorter recovery time for the patient (2-4 months instead of 1-2 weeks). Kidney cancer develops most often in people over the age of 40 and more frequently in men than women. Research has shown there are certain factors that increase your risk of developing it. Those include: smoking, obesity, high blood pressure, long-term dialysis, and exposure to certain chemicals on the job.