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What Is Recovery From Kidney Cancer Surgery Like?

If you are getting ready for kidney cancer surgery, you probably have a lot of questions, including what you might feel like afterward. Your recovery will be influenced a number of factors, including the type of surgery you have and the techniques utilized by your surgeon. For information that is specific to your unique situation, you should talk directly with your surgeon.

In general, kidney cancer surgery involves a radical nephrectomy to remove the affected kidney or a partial nephrectomy to remove the tumor only. A partial nephrectomy can be performed using a traditional, open approach or a laparoscopic, minimally invasive approach. As compared to an open procedure, a laparoscopic procedure usually involves a quicker and easier recovery.

What happens after a kidney is surgically removed?

If you have an open radical nephrectomy, here’s a general idea of what you can expect after your kidney cancer surgery:

  • In the first few days following your procedure, your treatment team will check in with you regularly to examine your incision and change your bandage.
  • Within about three days, you may resume eating solid food, which is important because good nutrition can help your body heal.
  • Within approximately five days, your epidural catheter will be removed and you may begin receiving milder pain medications orally or intravenously.
  • Within a week, your surgical staples or sutures will be removed, and you will be discharged from the hospital so that you can continue your recovery in the comfort of your own home. You’ll likely be scheduled for a follow-up appointment in a few weeks. At that time, your surgeon will advise when you can return to work and resume other activities.

Because physical activity can boost your circulation and promote healing, you will be encouraged to exercise throughout your recovery from kidney cancer surgery. Soon afterward, a medical professional will help you get out of bed and perhaps begin some light walking. As you start moving, you may experience some initial discomfort, which should gradually improve with time.

If you have questions, you can request an appointment with an oncologist in the Urologic Oncology Program at Moffitt Cancer Center by calling 1-888-663-3488 or completing our new patient registration form online. We do not require referrals.