Kidney cancer

Each year in the UK, there are over 3,800 new cases of kidney cancer in men, and over 2,300 cases in women. Kidney cancer accounts for just over two percent of all new cancers diagnosed in the UK.

The kidneys are two bean-shaped organs on either side of the spine just above the waist. Their main function is to filter blood and rid the body of excess water, salt and waste products. About four in five cases of kidney cancer affect the tubes inside the kidney that carry out this filtering.

If kidney cancer is not treated, cancer cells can break away from the original site and spread to other parts of the body. Where kidney cancer is at an early stage, surgery is usually done with the aim of curing the cancer. Occasionally, additional treatments are given to help reduce the risks of the cancer coming back.

Pelican Cancer Foundation aims to save and improve the lives of those with kidney cancer by improving treatment. It achieves this by supporting the research, development and dissemination of advances in treatment.

Pelican is a centre of excellence for sharing life-saving, life-enhancing knowledge and skills with multidisciplinary urology teams. Pelican provides a forum for teams to share and learn about current best practice and research.

Pelican supports the work of the urology unit at Basingstoke with the purchase of technology to improve treatment. Pelican also supports research that informs and improves treatment today.

At Pelican, we now have the equipment to investigate the use of minimally invasive treatments for kidney cancer, such as laparoscopic (keyhole) kidney surgery. The majority of kidney operations can be performed using keyhole techniques with the advantage of a reduced hospital stay and a more rapid return to normal activities. Currently less than 30% of kidney operations are performed laparoscopically in the UK because this surgery requires specialist training.

To research, develop and disseminate advances in precision treatment for kidney cancer. Our objective is to organise challenging and popular professional medical courses that encourage learning, collaboration and discussion, to improve treatment.

It is hoped that in the future this may include High-Intensity Focused Ultrasound (HIFU) for the laparoscopic destruction of small kidney tumours, obviating the need to remove them. Currently small tumours unsuitable for surgery are treated by radiofrequency ablation or cryoablation.

Pelican will continue to support educational meetings and seminars that investigate treatments to provide the best outcomes for patients with urological cancers.

It is hoped that in the future the options available for the destruction of small renal tumours will develop. Removing part of the kidney laparoscopically is technically difficult requiring advanced laparoscopic skills. Energy based ablative treatments such as cryoablation and radiofrequency ablation are less invasive and require less technical skill and are as a result of this gaining popularity for the small peripheral tumours.

Emerging potential thermal ablation technologies include High Intensity Focused Ultrasound and it is hoped that in the future the Hampshire Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust will be able to offer this as an alternative to the already established treatment of radiofrequency ablation.

Richard Hindley specialises in laparoscopic (keyhole) kidney surgery at the Hampshire Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, including kidney removal for cancer (radical nephrectomy).