What is Wilms tumor?

Wilms Tumor, also known as nephroblastoma, is a rare type of childhood cancer that starts in the kidneys. It is the most common type of kidney cancer for children. Most children with Wilms tumor only have a tumor on one kidney, but about 5% of children get them on both.

What causes Wilms tumor? Who is affected?

Like most cancers it is caused when cells in your body start to grow out of control. If a child has Wilms tumor, it means their kidney cells did not develop and mature properly like they were supposed to, which turns into cancer. This is caused by a random change in genes. Wilms tumor often affects kids ages 3 to 4 and become less common over the age of 5. Individuals of African American descent have a slightly higher risk of developing Wilms Tumor.

What are symptoms of Wilms tumor?

Children who have Wilms tumor may feel symptoms such as pain, swelling, and growth in their belly. Fever, nausea, and having no appetite are also possible symptoms. High blood pressure, blood in urine, constipation, and shortness of breath are all symptoms indicating a child could have Wilms tumor. There are some cases where children may not have any of these symptoms.

How is Wilms tumor treated?

Wilms tumor is first diagnosed into one of the 5 stage types:

  • Stage I:the cancer is found only in one kidney, is completely contained within the kidney, and can be completely removed with surgery.
  • Stage II:the cancer has spread to the tissues and structures beyond the affected kidney, such as nearby fat or blood vessels, but it can still be completely removed by surgery.
  • Stage III:the cancer has spread beyond the kidney area to nearby lymph nodes or other structures within the abdomen, the tumor may spill within the abdomen before or during surgery, or it may not be completely removed by surgery.
  • Stage IV:the cancer has spread outside the kidney to distant structures, such as the lungs, liver, bones or brain.
  • Stage V:Cancer cells are found in both kidneys. Most treatments are usually done with surgery, which might include removing part of the affected kidney, remove the affected kidney and surrounding tissue, and removing all or part of both kidneys.

Other treatments include chemotherapy and radiation.

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