Posted September 14, 2022 by Anusha ‐ 3 min read
A Wilms tumor (also called a nephroblastoma) is the most common kidney cancer in children. Most children with it have a tumor on one kidney, but about 5% get a tumor on both.
Causes of Wilms Tumor
All cancers happen when cells in your body start to grow out of control.
If your child has a Wilms tumor, their kidney cells didn’t grow like they should have.
Instead, they turned into cancer cells.
Most of the time, this is because of a random change in a gene.
Rarely, it’s because of gene changes handed down from a parent.
Symptoms of Wilms Tumor
Swelling in their belly
A growth that you can see or feel in their belly
Lack of appetite
High blood pressure
Blood in their pee
Shortness of breath
Types of Wilms Tumor
There are two kinds of Wilms tumors, divided by how the cells look under a microscope.
More than 9 out of 10 Wilms tumors fall into this group. It means there isn’t a lot of difference among the cancer cells. Children with this type have a good chance of being cured.
Unfavorable or anaplastic histology
This type has a variety of deformed cancer cells. It can be much harder to cure.
Diagnosis of Wilms Tumor
Your child’s medical appointment will probably include:
A physical exam and medical history. Your doctor will ask about the symptoms and whether cancer or urinary tract problems run in your family.
A blood test to check how well your child’s kidneys and liver are working, their red and white blood cells, and their blood clotting.
A urine test to look for blood
Imaging tests like an ultrasound, MRI, or CT scan of your child’s belly
If your doctor operates, they may do one of these procedures:
This removes the tumor and some healthy tissue around it.
This removes the affected kidney, the ureter (the tube that carries pee away from the kidney), the adrenal gland on top of the kidney, and nearby tissue.
Removal of both kidneys
In some cases, the doctor will need to take out both kidneys. Your child would then need to have dialysis, using a machine to filter waste out of their blood. Once they’re healthy enough, they might have a kidney transplant.
Certain medications can fight or kill cancer cells inside your child’s body. Most children who have Wilms tumors will get chemo at some point during treatment. These drugs can also affect healthy cells, leading to side effects including:
Loss of appetite
Nausea and vomiting
Diarrhea or constipation
Bruising or bleeding easier than usual
Higher chances of infection
Strong radiation can also kill cancer cells.
A machine focuses it onto the cancer.
Doctors tend to use radiation for tumors that are stage III and above.
But it can also have short-term and long-term side effects, including tissue damage, so they’ll use as little as possible.