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'Watch and Wait' Approach Often Best for Older Patients With Kidney Cancer
Date:2/12/2013

TUESDAY, Feb. 12 (HealthDay News) -- Sometimes, simply watching and waiting is a safe alternative to surgery for older patients with small kidney tumors, a new study suggests.

"Physicians can comfortably tell an elderly patient, especially a patient that is not healthy enough to tolerate general anesthesia and surgery, that the likelihood of dying of kidney cancer is low and that kidney surgery is unlikely to extend their lives," study lead author Dr. William Huang, an assistant professor of urologic oncology at NYU Medical Center, said in a news release from the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO).

The findings are to be presented Saturday at an ASCO conference in New York City. Research presented at medical meetings is typically considered preliminary until published in a peer-reviewed journal.

In their study, Huang's team analyzed data from more than 8,300 patients aged 66 and older who were diagnosed with small kidney tumors (less than 1.5 inches in diameter). Of those patients, 70 percent had surgery to remove either a part of the kidney or the entire organ and 31 percent underwent surveillance with imaging such as MRI, ultrasound and CT.

Over nearly five years of follow-up, 25 percent of the patients died from all causes and three percent of the patients died of kidney cancer. The rates of kidney cancer death were the same for patients who had surgery and those who underwent surveillance.

However, the study found patients in the surveillance group had a much lower risk of death from any cause, as well as a lower risk of having cardiovascular problems such as heart failure, stroke or vascular disease.

Huang stressed, however, that some patients may still prefer a surgical approach. "Since it is difficult to identify which tumors will become lethal, elderly patients who are completely healthy and have an extended life expectancy, may opt for surgery," he explained.

The researchers al
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