Until recently the treatment for kidney cancer would consist of active monitoring with regular scanning or surgical removal of either a part of the kidney (partial nephrology) or the entire kidney, (radical nephrectomy). However, developments in image-guided technology over the last decade mean that it is now possible to target treatments to areas deep inside the body. At the same time a large amount of research has taken place into how energy can be used to destroy diseased areas while sparing surrounding healthy tissue. This has led to the emergence of ablation therapy, which entails destroying areas of tissue using energy delivered down needles.
The role of ablation in the management of certain primary and secondary tumours in the liver, lung, kidney and soft tissues has been approved by the National Institute of Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE).
The energy most frequently used is heat, however, destruction of tissue by ice, called cryoablation, has been found to be most effective for kidney tumours. By using this ablative technique it is possible to now specifically target the tumour and immediate surrounding tissues within the kidney without the need to remove the entire organ. This preserves kidney function, reduces surgical risk and gives a quicker recovery time.