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A disease in which malignant (cancer) cells are found in the kidney, and may spread to the lungs, liver, or nearby lymph nodes. Wilms tumour usually occurs in children younger than 5 years old.
Wilms tumour and other kidney tumours are diseases in which malignant (cancer) cells are found in the kidney. In Wilms tumour, one or more tumours may be found in one or both kidneys. There are two kidneys, one on each side of the backbone, above the waist. Tiny tubules in the kidneys filter and clean the blood, taking out waste products and making urine. The urine passes from each kidney through a long tube called a ureter into the bladder. The bladder holds the urine until it is passed from the body.
Anatomy of the female urinary system showing the kidneys, adrenal glands, ureters, bladder, and urethra. Urine is made in the renal tubules and collects in the renal pelvis of each kidney. The urine flows from the kidneys through the ureters to the bladder. The urine is stored in the bladder until it leaves the body through the urethra.
Wilms tumour may spread to the lungs, liver, or nearby lymph nodes.
Nephroblastomatosis is a condition in which abnormal tissue grows on the outer part of one or both kidneys. Children with this condition are at risk for developing a type of Wilms tumour that grows quickly. Frequent follow-up testing is important for at least 7 years after the child is treated.
Other kidney tumours
Other childhood kidney tumours, which are diagnosed and treated in different ways, include:
Anything that increases the risk of getting a disease is called a risk factor. Having a risk factor does not mean that you will get cancer; not having risk factors doesn't mean that you will not get cancer. Talk to your child's doctor if you think your child may be at risk.
Wilms tumour may be part of a genetic syndrome that affects growth or development. A genetic syndrome is a set of symptoms or conditions that occur together and is usually caused by abnormal genes. Certain birth defects can also increase a child's risk for developing Wilms tumour. The following genetic syndromes and birth defects have been linked to Wilms tumour:
Children with these genetic syndromes and birth defects should be screened for Wilms tumour every three months until at least age 8. An ultrasound test of the abdomen may be used for screening. Children with Beckwith-Wiedemann syndrome or hemihypertrophy are also screened for liver and adrenal tumours that are linked to these genetic syndromes. A test to check the alpha-fetoprotein level in the blood and an ultrasound of the abdomen are done until age 4 years. An ultrasound of the kidneys is done after age 4 years.
Some children develop Wilms tumour in both kidneys. These often appear when Wilms tumour is first diagnosed, but a Wilms tumour may also occur in the second kidney after the child is successfully treated for Wilms tumour in one kidney. A second tumour is much more likely to develop in the other kidney when a child's first Wilms tumour is diagnosed before age 12 months or when embryonic cells remain in the kidney.
Children at risk for developing a second Wilms tumour in the other kidney should be screened for Wilms tumour every three months for two to six years. An ultrasound test of the abdomen may be used for screening.
Renal cell carcinoma may be related to the following conditions:
These and other signs and symptoms may be caused by kidney tumours or by other conditions. Check with a doctor if your child has any of the following:
The following tests and procedures may be used:
A biopsy may be done before treatment, after surgery to remove the tumour, or after chemotherapy to shrink the tumour.
Once a kidney tumour is found, surgery is done to find out whether or not the tumour is cancer. If the tumour is only in the kidney, the surgeon will remove the whole kidney (nephrectomy). If there are tumours in both kidneys or if the tumour has spread outside the kidney, a piece of the tumour will be removed. In any case, a sample of tissue from the tumour is sent to a pathologist, who looks at it under a microscope to check for signs of cancer.
The prognosis (chance of recovery) and treatment options depend on the following:
Wilms tumour in adults is harder to cure than in children. When a Wilms tumour is found, tests should include checking lymph nodes for cancer.
For more information on Wilms tumour and Other Childhood Kidney tumours click here
This link is to the National Cancer Institute (NCI) cancer website in the United States. There may be references to drugs and clinical trials that are not available here in Australia.
For information courtesy of Cancer Australia, please click here
Page last updated: 04/05/2020