Wilms tumor is a growth of abnormal cells that form tumors in the kidney. It most often affects children between 3 and 8 years of age. Wilms tumor usually only affects one kidney, but it may affect both kidneys.
The kidneys are located inside your body on each side of the spine, just above the waist. They filter waste out of the blood, control the balance of salt and water in your body, and they make urine.
The sooner cancer is found and treated, the better your child’s chances for recovery. However, even advanced cancer can usually be treated. Treatment may slow or stop the growth of the cancer and ease symptoms for a time. Ask your healthcare provider what you can expect with the type of cancer that your child has.
What is the cause?
The exact cause of this tumor is unknown. The tumor is linked with birth defects of the genitals, urinary tract, eyes, and other parts of your child’s body. It tends to run in families, and may be caused by changes in certain genes.
What are the symptoms?
Your child may appear healthy or may have:
A lump that can be felt in the abdomen
Blood in the urine
Fever and night sweats
Nausea or vomiting
Loss of appetite
Wilms tumors can grow quite large without causing pain.
How is it diagnosed?
Wilms tumor may be hard to diagnose. Sometimes tumors are found when X-rays are taken for other reasons. Your child’s health care provider will ask about symptoms and examine your child. The provider will want to know if there’s a family history of cancer or birth defects of the genitals or urinary system.
Tests may include:
Intravenous pyelogram, which is a kidney X-ray taken after dye has been injected into a vein
Ultrasound, which uses sound waves to show pictures of the inside of the kidneys
CT scan, which uses X-rays and a computer to show detailed pictures of the kidneys
MRI, which uses a strong magnetic field and radio waves to show detailed pictures of the kidneys
Arteriogram, which is a special X-ray of the arteries and veins of the kidney
Your child may also have a chest X-ray or bone scan to find out if the cancer has spread beyond the kidneys.
How is it treated?
You and your healthcare provider will discuss possible treatments for your child. You may also talk with surgeon and a cancer specialist. Some things to think about when making treatment decisions are:
Your child’s age
Your child’s overall health
The stage of the cancer (how advanced the cancer is)
Whether the cancer has spread to other parts of your child’s body
Possible treatments are:
Chemotherapy (anticancer drugs), which uses medicine to kill cancer cells
Radiation therapy, which uses high-energy X-rays to kill cancer cells
Surgery to remove the tumor
Your child’s treatment will also include:
Controlling pain or other symptoms
Controlling the side effects from treatments
Helping your child and your family cope with cancer
Often, more than 1 type of treatment is used. Your child will need to have regular follow-up visits with his or her healthcare provider.
Ask your healthcare provider about clinical trials that might be available to your child. Clinical trials are research studies to find new cancer treatments. Itâ€™s always your choice whether your child takes part in one or not.
How can I take care of my child?
If your child has been diagnosed with Wilms tumor:
Talk about your childâ€™s cancer and treatment options with your childâ€™s healthcare provider. Make sure you understand the treatment choices.
Follow the full course of treatment prescribed by your childâ€™s provider.
Ask your childâ€™s provider:
How and when you will hear your childâ€™s test results
How long it will take your child to recover
What activities your child should avoid and when your child can return to normal activities
How to take care of your child at home
What symptoms or problems you should watch for and what to do if your child has them
Make sure you know when your child should come back for a checkup.
It may also help if your child:
Eats a healthy diet and gets regular exercise as recommended by your healthcare provider.
Gets plenty of rest.
Takes time for activities that he enjoys. It may help your child to talk with a counselor about his illness.
Tells you or your provider if treatment causes discomfort. Usually there are ways to help your child be more comfortable.
What can be done to help prevent the cancer from spreading or coming back?
Your child should:
Complete the full course of surgery, radiation, or chemotherapy treatments ordered by your healthcare provider.
See a healthcare provider right away if there is a return of any previous symptoms, or if new symptoms develop.
Pediatric Advisor 2015.1 published by RelayHealth. Last modified: 2014-04-28 Last reviewed: 2014-04-28
This content is reviewed periodically and is subject to change as new health information becomes available. The information is intended to inform and educate and is not a replacement for medical evaluation, advice, diagnosis or treatment by a healthcare professional.