NAT Al Haji Buhari Bala-1615352502723
Al Haji Buhari Bala, kidney cancer patient with Dr Sanjay Bhat and a nurse. Image Credit: Supplied

Dubai: A timely surgery at a Dubai private hospital helped save a high-profile visitor diagnosed with kidney cancer, with the patient being able to retain his kidney.

Citing the case as one of the finest examples of medical tourism in Dubai ahead of World Kidney Day on March 11, Dr Sanjay Bhat, specialist urologist at Prime Hospital, told Gulf News: “During a routine medical check-up at a Turkish hospital, this gentleman - former Nigerian minister Al Haji Buhari Bala, 62 - was detected with a tumour growing outside his left kidney. The tumour was malignant and measured about 6cm. He chose to fly in to Dubai expressly for the surgery in the first week of February.”

Meeting the challenge

Usually, in case of kidney cancers, surgeons have no option but to re-sect the entire kidney. But in this case, Dr Bhat explained: “It is rare to be able to save the kidney, which is a precious organ — especially in case of patients who have diabetes and hypertension as kidney damage is common among them. In this case, the patient suffered from both the conditions and it was imperative we save his kidney. We were able to do that because the tumour was growing outside the kidney and was less than 7cm in diameter.”

Early detection

Dr Bhat added that kidney tumours excised at an early stage rarely reappeared and the patient has an excellent prognosis post-surgery. “People detected with malignant tumours growing outside the kidney, who underwent surgery at Stage I, had a survival rate of 93 per cent for the next five years.”

Usually, kidney cancers do not respond to radiation or chemotherapy, explained Dr Bhat. “The only way to deal with it is complete nephrectomy (resecting the entire kidney). In this case, because the tumour was growing outside the kidney and since the cancer was in Stage 1, I was able to successfully conduct partial nephrectomy. This means, we removed only a small part of the kidney, along with complete removal of the tumour. The patient was required to stay in hospital for only five days and was discharged and advised hospital visits over the next three weeks,” Dr Bhat added.

Post-surgery sight-seeing

Early discharge from the hospital allowed patient Bala to soak up the sights and sounds of this beautiful city. His nephrectomy was conducted through a laparoscope, which assured quick recovery. He was able to recuperate very well and go on a sight-seeing trip of the emirate. Once he got an all-clear from the doctors, three weeks after the surgery, Bala flew back to Nigeria late last month.

Bala, speaking to Gulf News from his home, said: “Last month, as soon as my cancer was detected, I did research and Dr Bhat’s name came up. After having called him up and discussed the issue with him, I was in Dubai for the surgery, 48 hours after the diagnosis. I was fortunate as the cancer was detected at Stage I during a routine diagnosis. I was in hospital for exactly five days after the surgery and my recovery went very well. I remained in Dubai for an additional two weeks as Dr Bhat wanted to see me three weeks after the surgery to give me a clean chit to undertake air travel. I got an opportunity to see all the landmarks of this beautiful city as I did very well after the surgery. It was a unique experience for me,” said Bala, whose son completed his medical degree in India and is now practising in the United Kingdom. He commended the excellent inpatient and outpatient services at Prime Hospital in Dubai.

How common is kidney cancer?

Compared to breast, lung, prostrate and other more common cancers, incidence of kidney cancers is sixth on the list, worldwide, and therefore it is considered relatively less common.

According to Dr Bhat, cancers of the vital abdominal organs such as liver, kidney and gall bladder occur in people who typically have high-fat and high-protein diet. People suffer from renal cell carcinoma, which is a malignant tumour growth outside the kidney.

Other more common causes of kidney cancers are:

• Obesity

• Diabetes

• Hypertension

• Smoking

• History of cancer in the family