Stacey Murray – Kidney Cancer Success Story

More Than a Cure

For Stacey Murray, robotic surgery offered a better way to overcome kidney cancer

An unrelenting pain in Stacey Murray’s right side landed her back in her urologist’s office. She’d had kidney stones since she was a child and had undergone a handful of surgeries over the years to have them removed.

This time, however, Stacey’s pain wasn’t due to a stone. A CT scan revealed that she had a cancerous mass on her right kidney.

What might have been a nagging annoyance, Stacey calls a blessing. “Because of my pain, the cancer was found,” Stacey says.

Kidney cancer is typically painless and gives no warning signs of its presence until dangerously late in the game, when people may have grown a baseball-size tumor, says Stacey’s urologist, Greg Lieser, MD, on the medical staff at Methodist Richardson Medical Center. “Her guardian angel was looking out for her.”

Not your typical cancer treatment

Kidney cancer doesn’t respond to radiation or chemotherapy, so the standard course of treatment is to remove the tumor and surrounding tissue. There’s just one problem.

“Kidneys don’t really like being cut into,” Dr. Lieser says. “There is a lot of blood, and we have to reconstruct the kidney to make sure it doesn’t leak blood or urine after.”

So Dr. Lieser chose to use the robotic da Vinci® Surgical System for the partial nephrectomy (kidney removal). It allows for greater visibility and maneuverability of the surgical instruments, which is invaluable in complex surgeries. Methodist Richardson is home to three of these surgical robots.

The advantages of robotic surgery

Dr. Lieser was able to save most of Stacey’s kidney tissue with the da Vinci technology.

“Doing a full kidney removal is like throwing the baby out with the bathwater,” Dr. Lieser says. Yet that was one of the common approaches to treating kidney cancer with traditional laparoscopy. The procedure doesn’t allow access to hard-to-reach tumors; it’s also difficult to reconstruct a kidney with typical laparoscopic tools.

The other option wasn’t much better — a painful open surgery in which doctors must remove part of the rib and cut through layers of muscle tissue to access the kidney. In this operation, doctors can reach the kidney better and are more likely to save kidney tissue rather than remove the whole organ, but patients are left with longer recovery times and narcotics for pain.

“Robot-assisted surgery for kidney cancer is a game changer,” Dr. Lieser says. “There are smaller incisions and much less pain after the operation, and patients get to go home more quickly. Within a week or two, it’s like they never had surgery.”

Aside from those benefits, being able to preserve the kidney is at the top of Dr. Lieser’s motivations. “We lose kidney function as we age, and there’s more risk of kidney deterioration if you take one out because it puts more stress on the remaining kidney,” he explains.

With kidney dysfunction comes an increased risk of heart attack, stroke, and lower life expectancy, he adds. “Anything we can do to preserve kidney function is of utmost importance.”

Nowhere but Methodist

Stacey is just glad for the medical care she received at Methodist.

“I won’t go to anyone other than Methodist Richardson,” she says. “Dr. Lieser is patient, he listens well and explains things thoroughly, and he never rushes me. He makes me feel comfortable.”

Stacey credits the whole Methodist team for her successful recovery from cancer. “The hospital is wonderful, and all of the doctors and nurses were really great, genuinely nice people.

“It’s a good thing that my doctors found the cancer early and that it didn’t affect my kidneys. I’m lucky.”

Robot-assisted surgery for kidney cancer is a game changer. Greg Lieser, MD

»IS ROBOT-ASSISTED SURGERY RIGHT FOR YOU?

To find out more about procedures using the da Vinci robot at Methodist Richardson, visit MethodistHealthSystem.org/Richardson-Robotics.

With kidney cancer behind her, Stacey Murray is enjoying time with her grandchildren.