Also called nephroblastoma, Wilms' tumor is a rare type of kidney cancer that causes a tumor to develop on either one or both kidneys. The condition is named after Carl Max Wilhelm Wilms, a German doctor who, in 1899, was one of the first to study the disease.
Unfortunately, Wilms' tumor affects children, mostly those between the ages of three and eight. In fact, it's the most common kidney cancer in children.
Some birth defects and certain genetic conditions can increase the likelihood that a child will develop this childhood cancer. These include:
It's also more common if a relative has had Wilms' tumor.
If a child is born with a birth defect or has a genetic predisposition for childhood Wilms' tumor, then they should have a specialist perform both a physical exam and an ultrasound every three months to screen for tumors.
Only about five percent of children develop tumors on both kidneys (bilateral). The majority of children have tumors affecting only one kidney (unilateral).
Unfortunately, Wilms' tumors often go unnoticed in the early stages. The tumors are usually discovered only after they've grown to a fairly large size or after they've spread to other organs (metastasized).
Possible symptoms include:
If you feel a lump or swelling in your child's abdomen or if your child experiences any of the above-mentioned symptoms, immediately schedule an appointment with a pediatrician.
An initial Wilms' tumor diagnosis can be made with the help of an ultrasound, MRI or CAT scan. If a diagnosis is made, the doctor will then have to determine the stage of the cancer.
He will also have to determine whether the cancer has a favorable or unfavorable appearance. Ninety-five percent have a favorable appearance and a good prognosis. In roughly 5 percent of the cases, however, the nuclei of the cells have grown large and distorted, and the cells' appearances vary widely (anaplasia). This diminishes the prognosis.
This type of kidney cancer can be divided into five stages:
More than 92 percent of children with this childhood cancer are completely cured, and new methods of treatment are constantly in development.
Treatment usually occurs in children's cancer centers, since doctors at those facilities have the most experience with this rare disease.
Treatments can include:
Treatments can also include a combination of the above treatment options.
The good news is that childhood Wilms' tumor has an excellent prognosis. In fact, most children with Wilms' tumor will survive the disease.
Divided into stages, the prognosis is as follows:
American Cancer Society (2006). Detailed Guide: Wilms' Tumor. Retrieved July 10, 2007, from the American Cancer Society Web site: http://www.cancer.org/docroot/CRI/content/CRI_2_4_1x_What_is_wilms_tumor_46.asp?sitearea=.
Mayo Clinic (2005). Wilms' Tumor. Retrieved July 10, 2007, from the Mayo Clinic Web site: http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/wilms-tumor/DS00436.
National Cancer Institute (n.d.). Wilms' Tumor. Retrieved July 10, 2007, from the
National Cancer Institute Web site: http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/wilmstumor.html.
information on health-related topics, not medical advice, diagnosis or
treatment recommendations. Please consult your physician if you have questions