Wilms’ Tumor

Wilms' Tumor is a cancer of the kidney which affects children, generally before seven years of age.

Wilms' Tumor is asymptomatic (shows no symptoms) in its early stages. As the disease progresses, there are a variety of characteristics which may indicate the presence of Wilms' Tumor. These include:

  • Abdominal mass (often noticed by a parent while bathing the child) or abdominal pain
  • Hematuria (blood in the urine)
  • Fever, often with accompanying abdominal pain
  • Less frequent symptoms include anorexia, vomiting, and malaise

Incidence of Wilms' Tumor

Wilms' Tumor will affect one in 10,000 children, regardless of race, sex, country of origin, or parental occupation. It is the second most common solid tumor to affect children. Although there are a few hereditary cases of Wilms' Tumor, the majority (over 95%) of tumors are sporadic.

A major effort is aimed at understanding the molecular genetics of Wilms' Tumor. The tumor forms from kidney cells, which have failed to develop properly during the child's development.

Treatment for Wilms' Tumor

The treatment of Wilms' Tumor represents one of the greatest successes of modern pediatric oncology. This cancer is first treated by surgery, to remove the bulk of diseased tissue, followed by chemotherapy, and possibly radiotherapy, in more advanced stages of the disease.

Individual treatment programs are devised to take into account the subtype of Wilms' Tumor and its spread. The treatment program for an individual patient will be determined by the pediatric oncology team. Most children (over 85%) survive this disease and lead normal, well-adjusted lives.

With acknowledgement to Dr. Philip D. Acott, pediatric nephrologist, IWK Health Centre, for his assistance in updating this information.

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