Mayo Clinic's approach

Experts discuss complex kidney tumor cases at a tumor board meeting.

Mayo Clinic experts discuss complex kidney tumor cases at a tumor board meeting to determine the best approach for each patient.

Experience in complex cases

Mayo Clinic is in the forefront of quality care and research for people with complex, large kidney tumors. Mayo Clinic's highly specialized and experienced surgical teams are able to perform complex nephrectomies in circumstances where others have thought the tumor couldn't be removed.

In these complex cases, urologists use a team approach with the most expert medical, surgical, technical and other types of support that modern medicine can offer. This ensures that each person receives the highest quality care and the best outcome.

Kidney-sparing surgery

At Mayo Clinic, urologic surgeons are leaders in kidney-sparing surgery, also called partial nephrectomy. Highly trained and experienced experts can leave as much healthy kidney tissue in place as possible in circumstances that otherwise might cause a person to have very limited kidney function or the need for dialysis.

Urologists use advanced surgical techniques to offer robot-assisted options and open surgery for partial nephrectomy. Mayo Clinic's experience and surgical knowledge leads to excellent outcomes and lowers the risk of complications.

Mayo urologic surgeons perform a nephrectomy.

Highly skilled Mayo Clinic urologic surgeons have performed thousands of nephrectomies over the years, with excellent outcomes.

Unparalleled expertise

Nephrectomies at Mayo Clinic are always done by urologic surgeons with specialized training and expertise who do large numbers of these procedures. Pediatric urologists with training and experience working with children also perform nephrectomies.

Innovation and extensive experience

For over 150 years, Mayo Clinic has been a leader in surgical techniques and clinical care of patients who need kidney surgery. Mayo Clinic urologists also know when surgery may not be needed, taking into account patient preferences. In some instances, for example, the recommendation may be active surveillance. This involves observing a person with kidney trouble for a certain amount of time and following up with scans.

Research leader

Mayo Clinic urologists are international leaders in innovation and research on surgical and nonsurgical treatment of kidney tumors. Mayo Clinic researchers have improved the chances of cure, extended life for patients who can't be cured, improved quality of life and minimized the impact of treatment for patients worldwide.

Ongoing clinical trials at Mayo Clinic continue to lead to improved patient outcomes and a higher standard of care.

Grateful patient talks about his Mayo Clinic experience

A grateful patient with kidney cancer explains his Mayo Clinic experience, from confirmation of a large tumor on his right kidney to surgical removal of the kidney (nephrectomy) and follow-up care.

A grateful patient: My wife insisted that we go to Mayo. That doctor then set us up for bone scan, brain scan. And while we were waiting on the results of that, he was trying to contact -- he said he had a friend that worked in Dr. Leibovich's office. And spent all weekend trying to contact him. And Monday morning, the Mayo called me to see what time I wanted an appointment for Tuesday morning. So we got diagnosed on Wednesday -- Tuesday. I think on a Tuesday. We got diagnosed on a Tuesday and by the following Tuesday, we were up here on appointments.

After I was diagnosed, probably the first 10 days to two weeks, I was fairly depressed, as I suppose most people are. We got up here. We met with Dr. Leibovich. He says, well, first, before we do anything, what did your doctor tell you? And you know, we tell him the story. The hometown doctor, the long face, the whole bit. He says, well, let me tell you. He says you've got a big tumor. He says, but I've seen a lot bigger. And he says, your doctors at home see this two or three times a year. He said, I see it every day. Puts you right at ease. Hit it off right off the bat. And by the time we went home, I decided, actually started writing a book called it, It is What It Is. Kind of let that go by the wayside, though. But decided I wasn't going to let it bother me. I said, the only way cancer beats you is if you give in to it. And so I just said, I'm going to live the way I am. And I said, even if I end up dying from this thing, it ain't going to beat me. I'm going to be who I am, live the way I am. It is what it is. I got the best doctors. And the only thing I can do is find the best doctors, which we believe we've done. Being in the Mayo, we think they are the finest doctors in the world. And beyond that, it's in God's hands. I have no control over that. So I gave up worrying about it after about 10 days to two weeks. Went back to work.

Well, we talked, when we got up here, about the surgery. Dr. Leibovich didn't seem to be in a big hurry to have to do it. We worked with oncology, Dr. Dronca, and they thought we should try medicines and find out which medicine is going to work. Because then, if you know what medicine is going to work before you have the surgery, then when you get out of surgery, you don't have to spend a lot of time figuring out what medicine is going to work and you can get right back on medicine. So we did two cycles of the Sutent first and it seemed to be holding everything stable. So then we went ahead and did the surgery where they had to remove my right kidney, like 75% of one adrenal gland, 70% of the left adrenal gland, fatty tissue around the kidney and 28 lymph nodes. Dr. Leibovich sent the lymph nodes out to pathology and had the results back before he closed me up -- that it was not in the lymph nodes. It's still in the lungs, it's what we're battling now. But he got me closed up. Shortly after I came to out of surgery, they said, well, the sooner you get up and get walking, the sooner you go home. I said, well, give me a hand, let's get out of this bed. Had surgery on Thursday and I was home Monday. And four weeks after the surgery, we came back up for follow-up scans. And they said at that point, my immune system, with all the tumors gone, that my immune system had kicked in and the spots in my lungs had already started to shrink even being off the medicine. Now I'm back up for a three-month scan after that and they're telling me that the spots are getting smaller. They're still shrinking and some of the spots may have even disappeared already.

I hit it off with Dr. Leibovich that right away. And actually don't know what the kicker was that really got her going. But I told him if everything turned out, I was going to get his name tattooed on my back. And after the kidney cancer, after the surgery and everything, I decided to go ahead and get the kidney cancer ribbon. And on the ribbon, it has my diagnose date. And then also on the other side of the ribbon, it has Remission and the date is blank. But then underneath, we put "Tumors removed by Dr. Brad Leibovich." My biggest worry was that I got his name spelled right. When you get a tattoo, it's personal. It means something to you and sharing it with Dr. Leibovich and you guys up here is great.

Expertise and rankings

Mayo urologic surgeons perform a partial nephrectomy.

Highly skilled urologic surgeons at Mayo Clinic use the latest techniques and technology, with a focus on kidney-sparing surgery (partial nephrectomy) whenever possible.

  • Experts in nephrectomy surgery. Mayo Clinic urologic surgeons have expertise in treating all types of kidney tumors, from simple to large complex tumors, as well as advanced cancer that has spread. All Mayo Clinic surgeons who perform nephrectomy have training in urologic cancer treatment, minimally invasive surgery or both. Urologic surgeons help decide when surgery is needed. And they use a team approach to do surgery on complex tumors that may be deemed impossible to remove at other facilities.
  • Latest technology. Mayo Clinic urologic surgeons are highly skilled in the latest techniques and technology. This includes minimally invasive laparoscopic surgery and robotic surgery, and the most advanced open techniques. Mayo Clinic's surgeons use advanced imaging techniques. They also are experimenting with 3D modeling and other advances to improve surgical precision and surgery outcomes.
  • Excellent outcomes. Mayo Clinic offers low nephrectomy complication rates with short hospital stays and the best outcomes for our patients. Mayo's urologic surgeons showed early on that, in appropriately selected cancer cases, partial nephrectomy outcomes can be just as good as radical nephrectomy. Partial nephrectomy preserves kidney function and helps prevent complications.

Nationally recognized expertise

Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, Mayo Clinic in Phoenix/Scottsdale, Arizona, and Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville, Florida, are ranked among the Best Hospitals for urology by U.S. News & World Report. Mayo Clinic Children's Center in Rochester is ranked the No. 1 hospital in Minnesota, and the five-state region of Iowa, Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota and Wisconsin, according to U.S. News & World Report's 2023-2024 "Best Children's Hospitals" rankings.

Mayo Clinic uses a team approach.

Mayo Clinic is known for its team approach to planning to help ensure the best outcomes for patients.

Locations, travel and lodging

Mayo Clinic has major campuses in Phoenix and Scottsdale, Arizona; Jacksonville, Florida; and Rochester, Minnesota. The Mayo Clinic Health System has dozens of locations in several states.

For more information on visiting Mayo Clinic, choose your location below:

Costs and insurance

Mayo Clinic works with hundreds of insurance companies and is an in-network provider for millions of people.

In most cases, Mayo Clinic doesn't require a physician referral. Some insurers require referrals or may have additional requirements for certain medical care. All appointments are prioritized on the basis of medical need.

Learn more about appointments at Mayo Clinic.

Please contact your insurance company to verify medical coverage and to obtain any needed authorization prior to your visit. Often, your insurer's customer service number is printed on the back of your insurance card.

More information about billing and insurance:

Mayo Clinic in Arizona, Florida and Minnesota

Mayo Clinic Health System

Aug. 11, 2023
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  4. What is a renal mass and what is a localized renal tumor? Urology Care Foundation. Accessed March 21, 2023.
  5. Surgery for kidney cancer. American Cancer Society. Accessed March 20, 2023.
  6. Richie JP. Definitive surgical management of renal cell carcinoma. Accessed March 20, 2023.
  7. Richie JP, et al. Role of surgery in patients with metastatic renal cell carcinoma. Accessed March 20, 2023.
  8. What is kidney cancer in children? Urology Care Foundation. Accessed March 21, 2023.
  9. Tests for kidney cancer. American Cancer Society. Accessed March 21, 2023.
  10. Bishoff JT, et al., eds. Nephrectomy. In: Atlas of Laparoscopic and Robotic Urologic Surgery. 4th ed. Elsevier; 2023. Accessed March 21, 2023.
  11. Chronic kidney disease initiative: Prevention and risk management. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Accessed March 21, 2023.
  12. Your kidneys and how they work. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. Accessed March 20, 2023.
  13. Solitary kidney. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. Accessed March 20, 2023.
  14. Zaid HB, et al. Outcomes following complete surgical metastasectomy for patients with metastatic renal cell carcinoma: A systematic review and meta-analysis. The Journal of Urology. 2017; doi:10.1016/j.juro.2016.07.079.

Nephrectomy (kidney removal)