As the COVID-19 crisis has unfolded, hospitals around the country are announcing delays, and in some cases, even banning “elective surgeries.” The Centers for Medicaid and Medicare Services (CMS) has released guidance for hospitals on limitations for these procedures to preserve resources during the COVID-19 pandemic.
What is elective surgery?
Many patients are surprised to learn that most surgeries for kidney cancer fall under the category of elective surgery.
The term “elective” is distressing to cancer patients as it suggests that surgery to remove a tumor is a choice, similar to a cosmetic procedure.
While the name “elective” might imply that this type of surgery is optional, that is not always the case. An elective procedure is simply one that is planned in advance, rather than one that’s done in an emergency situation.
Emergency surgeries include appendectomies or cardiac procedures for someone experiencing a heart attack. These are surgeries where patients would likely die without rapid intervention.
What is the risk of elective surgery?
The reason to postpone surgery or other procedures, such as ablation, is to minimize the risk of infection for patients getting to and from the hospital and to reduce the need of intensive care unit beds.
Defining what surgeries should and shouldn’t be postponed right now is something that hospitals are struggling with. Even doctors at the same institution don’t always agree on what should or shouldn’t constitute a priority.
What does this mean for kidney cancer patients?
Multiple studies have shown that growth rates for small renal masses are very low – and less than 1 percent of patients develop metastatic disease from these masses.
On the other hand, the risks related to acquiring and developing complications from COVID-19 are higher for patients recovering from surgery. While delaying surgery for a renal mass is distressing emotionally, during this pandemic, it might be medically safer.
In addition to being safer for you, delaying surgery frees up needed resources for more urgent surgeries, including patients experiencing heart attacks, or other serious illnesses that need immediate care.
We encourage patients with localized disease or newly diagnosed renal masses to consider joining one of our closed communities to connect and get support from others. The KCCure 1-2-3 patient community is for patients with stage 1, stage 2 or stage 3 disease; and the Benign Renal Mass Community, is an excellent resource for those already diagnosed with a benign renal mass or patients who are awaiting surgery and don’t yet have a diagnosis.
To learn more about how the American College of Surgeons defines elective surgery, you can read more here.
Above all, stay safe. While this time may make us all feel isolated, with KCCure, you are never alone.
Please note: The material on this site is for informational purposes only and is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment for a specific medical condition. You should not use information on this website to diagnose or treat a health problem or disease and should consult with a qualified healthcare provider with any questions or concerns you may have regarding your condition.