Kidney Cancer

If you have kidney cancer, trust our experts who are recognized for advanced care to preserve kidney function and treat all stages of the disease.

Nationally Ranked Cancer Care

UC San Diego Health is repeatedly ranked among the nation's best in both cancer care and urology by U.S. News & World Report. We are also the only National Cancer Institute (NCI)-designated Comprehensive Cancer Center in San Diego County. This is the highest possible rating for a U.S. cancer center, and it means you’ll receive the best possible care and support. Studies show patient outcomes are better at NCI-designated cancer centers.

What Is Kidney Cancer?

Cancer that starts in kidney cells is called kidney or renal cancer. There are many types of kidney cancer and most are rare. The two most common types of kidney cancer in adults are clear cell renal cell carcinoma and papillary renal cell carcinoma. 

Surgery for Kidney Cancer 

Find a full spectrum of kidney cancer treatment options with surgeons who have pioneered techniques for treating all stages of the disease.

Partial Nephrectomy — Removal of Part of the Kidney

UC San Diego Health is one of the most experienced medical centers in the world in performing partial nephrectomies. Over 70% of patients treated for kidney cancer at UC San Diego Health receive a partial nephrectomy.

Partial nephrectomy is a more difficult surgical procedure but it is preferred when possible, as it preserves kidney function. Preserving kidney function can lower your chance of chronic kidney disease, bone fractures, osteoporosis, erectile dysfunction and cardiac events. 

Types of Partial Nephrectomy

  • Robotic-assisted partial nephrectomy
  • Open partial nephrectomy
  • Single-incision laparoscopic partial nephrectomy, also known as LESS, short for laparo-endoscopic single-site surgery

The LESS approach for a partial nephrectomy is a relatively new minimally invasive technique that is less painful than traditional laparoscopic partial nephrectomies. In this procedure, your surgeon makes one incision in the belly button to remove the cancerous part of the kidney. UC San Diego Health was the second center in the world to report performing this LESS procedure. 

Nephrectomy — Removal of the Whole Kidney

For larger tumors, your surgeon may recommend removing the entire cancerous kidney. This is known as a nephrectomy. UC San Diego Health surgeons are experienced in performing minimally invasive and open nephrectomies.

Types of Nephrectomy

  • Laparoscopic nephrectomy: The procedure has well-documented benefits for faster recovery with less pain. 
  • Single-incision laparoscopic nephrectomy: UC San Diego Health was one of the first centers in the world to develop this procedure. The procedure is also associated with faster recovery and less pain.
  • Robotic laparoscopic nephrectomy: The procedure is performed with a robotic-assisted surgical system and has certain benefits for select patients.
  • Open nephrectomy: UC San Diego Health surgeons are experienced in performing open nephrectomies for high-risk patients with complex conditions.

Scarless Surgeries

UC San Diego Health surgeons are pioneering minimally invasive, scarless surgical techniques for treating disease, including natural orifice transluminal endoscopic surgery (NOTES). NOTES involves removing damaged or diseased organs through natural openings in the body.

Other Innovations in Kidney Cancer Care

UC San Diego Health physicians are developing new techniques to shrink large tumors with targeted chemotherapy. This enables kidney preservation, even in advanced cancer. We are also developing new technologies to minimize damage to healthy kidney tissue during surgery. This can further improve the benefits of kidney preservation.

Multidisciplinary Urologic Cancer Clinic

If you have metastatic kidney cancer and surgery alone will not treat your condition, you may be referred to our multidisciplinary Urologic Cancer Clinic, which brings some of the best oncologists and urologists in San Diego County to one location. This means you can conveniently and quickly access the specialized care you need.

Multidisciplinary Clinic Highlights

This unique clinic focuses on improving the prognosis and quality of life for people with high-risk, aggressive or metastatic urologic cancers such as kidney cancer.

At our clinic, you may:

  • Discuss treatment options with three cancer specialists — a medical oncologist, urologic surgeon and radiation oncologist — during a single visit
  • Get a balanced view of treatment options with quality-of-life considerations incorporated into your care plan
  • Get tests and treatments that meet the highest standards of cancer care, including genetic and molecular evaluations to further personalize care
  • Have faster and more convenient access to cancer care through all stages of treatment
  • Access the most promising, new kidney cancer treatment through participation in a clinical trial
  • Ask your dedicated patient navigator to help you schedule your appointments, scans and consults.

Second Opinion Services

When you have a diagnosis as serious as cancer, you deserve a second opinion on your treatment options.

How to Get a Second Opinion

Clinical Trials

Advancing Cancer Care and Prevention

UC San Diego Health physicians are actively researching ways to improve cancer care. By joining a clinical trial, you may receive a new cancer treatment before it is available to the public. If your cancer has not responded to standard therapies, talk to your doctor about whether a clinical trial could be right for you.

Patient & Family Support Services

At UC San Diego Health, your care goes beyond treating disease. It also includes supporting you and your loved ones emotionally throughout your cancer journey. Most of our support services are free.

Browse All Support Services