Cancers Affecting the Kidneys, Bladder and Male Reproductive Organs

Bladder Cancer

The bladder is the organ located in the lower abdomen where urine is stored before moving through the urinary tract. The American Cancer Society estimates that bladder cancer accounts for about five percent of all new cancers in the US. Men are more likely than women to develop the disease. 

Blood in the urine is the most common symptom of bladder cancer. Some other symptoms include frequent urination and pain upon urination. Surgery, called cystectomy, to remove all or part of the bladder is a common form of treatment. During robotic cystectomy with the da Vinci Surgical System, surgeons are able to make just a few small incisions so patients typically experience less pain and have quicker recovery times.

Kidney Cancer

Renal cell cancer (also called kidney cancer or renal cell adenocarcinoma) is a disease in which cancer cells form in tubules of the kidney. Approximately 54,000 Americans are diagnosed with kidney cancer each year, according to the National Cancer Institute. Although anyone can get kidney cancer, it usually affects those over age 50. If found early, the survival rate for patients with kidney cancer ranges from 79 to 100 percent.

Many kidney tumors do not produce symptoms, but may be detected during evaluation of an unrelated problem or during routine screening for people who are in high-risk categories. If cancer is suspected and appears localized to the kidney, there are three main treatment options: tumor removal, destroying the tumor with heat and surveillance. Chemotherapy, hormone therapy and radiation therapy are not effective treatments for kidney cancer. 

For many patients, a kidney-sparing approach called robotic partial nephrectomy, is an option. This complex procedure uses the da Vinci Surgical System to remove only the cancerous portion of the kidney, preserving as much of the unaffected kidney as possible. Using the system’s 3-D magnification, surgeons are able to precisely identify cancerous kidney tumors, as well as the healthy tissue, and remove the affected tissue through small incisions in the patient’s abdomen.

After surgeons have removed the tumor, they must reconstruct the remaining portion of the kidney. One of the benefits of partial nephrectomy is that a patient will still have a “reserve” kidney in addition to their unaffected kidney. This can be important for patients such as diabetics who are at-risk for kidney failure.

Patients who are not candidates for robotic partial nephrectomy, may consider robotic-assisted or laparoscopic nephrectomy, a procedure in which the patient’s entire kidney is removed using minimally-invasive, laparoscopic techniques.

Prostate Cancer

Prostate cancer is the second leading cause of cancer death in men in the United States with approximately 28,000 men dying of it yearly according to the National Cancer Institute. The prostate is a walnut-sized gland surrounding the urethra that is responsible for producing the seminal fluid that transports sperm. Prostate cancer occurs when a malignant tumor is formed in the prostate gland. If left untreated, the cancer can grow and spread beyond the prostate into the surrounding tissues and lymph nodes, as well as to distant parts of the body such as the bones, lungs and liver. Common symptons include issues with urination (increased frequency, difficulty starting or stopping, pain), painful ejaculation, and blood in semen or urine. 

Several treatments are available depending on the stage of the cancer, age of the patient and his overall health. A prostatectomy is the removal of the prostate. This can be done through traditional surgery or minimally invasive robotic surgery with the da Vinci Surgical System which typically promotes a faster recovery and return to normal activities. Radiation is also used to treat prostate cancer.

Testicular Cancer

Testicular cancer is found in the testicles, the male sex gland that produces hormones and sperm. While there are three types of testicular cancer (germ-cell tumors, stromal tumors and secondary testicular cancer), more than 90 percent of all cases are germ-cell tumors, according to the American Cancer Society. It can be common for men to delay reporting swelling or enlargement of the testicle, which gives tumors time to spread through the body, so it is important to contact an urologist immediately when noticing symptoms.

Suspicious tumors are treated initially by surgical removal of the testicle through a small groin incision. Subsequent treatment will depend on the tumor's cell type category. The most common cell type is seminoma, a tumor responsive to both radiation and chemotherapy. Radiation is commonly utilized for treating low stage seminomas. All other cell types are called non-seminomatous tumors. Treatment options for non-seminomatous tumors include observation, surgery or chemotherapy, depending on the cell type and how far it has spread. Removal of one testicle should not impair a patient's sexual potency or, in general, their fertility, though they may experience a brief decrease in sperm production. Patients with more aggressive tumors may require surgical removal of lymph nodes in the abdomen to assess how far the cancer has spread. Some patients' ability to ejaculate may be impaired after surgery to remove the lymph nodes.