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Health Information For Parents
Wilms tumor is a rare kidney cancer that is highly treatable. Most kids with Wilms tumor survive and go on to live normal, healthy lives.
Also known as nephroblastoma, Wilms tumor can affect both kidneys, but usually develops in just one. Doctors believe that the tumor begins to grow as a fetus develops in the womb, with some cells that should form into the kidneys instead forming a tumor.
Before being diagnosed with Wilms tumor, most children do not show any signs of having cancer, and usually act and play normally. Often, a parent discovers a firm, smooth lump in the child’s abdomen (belly). It is not uncommon for the mass to grow quite large before it is discovered. In fact, the average Wilms tumor is 1 pound at diagnosis.
Some children also may have:
Even though Wilms tumors often are large when found, most have not spread to other areas of the body. This makes it easier to successfully treat than if the cancer cells have spread (metastasized) to other parts of the body.
Several tests are used to confirm a Wilms tumor diagnosis and determine the stage of the disease. These tests can include:
Some genetic factors (like birth defect syndromes) can make a child more likely to develop Wilms tumor, including:
Kids with risk factors for Wilms tumor should have an ultrasound screening every 3 months until about age 6 or 7. Those at high risk may get be screened until they’re a little older.
Treating Wilms tumor depends on a few things. Most important are the stage of the cancer at diagnosis, and the condition, or
, of the cancer cells. Most Wilms tumors have “favorable” histology, meaing they are easier to cure.
Doctors use a staging system to describe the extent of a tumor. A very aggressive tumor is treated with an intensive regimen of medicine to achieve the best chance for a cure. A child with less-invasive disease will get the least amount of medicine needed, which helps reduce long-term side effects.
The most common stages are:
Surgery is usually done to treat Wilms tumor. In a radical nephrectomy, the surgeon removes:
When cancer is in both kidneys, surgeons usually take out as much of the cancer as possible and preserve as much healthy kidney tissue as they can to avoid a kidney transplant.
All treatment plans usually include both surgery and chemotherapy. More advanced stages also may require radiation therapy. Both treatments have short-term and long-term risks.
Short-term (or temporary) effects may include:
Long-term (or late) effects may include:
Parents might feel unsure about whether they can care for their child after treatment in a hospital. The hospital’s doctors, nurses, and home health services staff will provide the information and support needed to help a parent care for a child after or between hospital visits.
Depending on the treatment, the level of at-home care can vary. Treatment for Wilms tumor is not as intensive as for other cancers, so most kids won’t have lots of things they can’t do.
Most kids treated for Wilms tumor don’t have special nutritional needs. They also don’t have to take medicine for low blood cell counts, as most other cancer patients do. However, parents must watch for signs of problems, like fever, nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea. A child with a high fever should see a doctor right away.
When therapy is over, the care team will provide a schedule of follow-up tests such as:
If the cancer comes back, treatment will be based on its histology, and how long it’s been since the last treatment. The longer the cancer was gone, the better. But Wilms tumor usually does not come back. Being cancer-free for at least 2 years after treatment is generally a very good sign.
The kidneys play a critical role in health. When something goes wrong, it could indicate a kidney disease. What are kidney diseases, and how can they be treated?
The bean-shaped kidneys, each about the size of a child’s fist, are essential to our health. Their most important role is to filter blood and produce urine.
Visit our Cancer Center for teens to get information and advice on treating and coping with cancer.
Cancer is a serious illness that needs special treatment. Find out more about how kids can cope with cancer.
From treatments and prevention to coping with the emotional aspects of cancer, the Cancer Center provides comprehensive information that parents need.
It’s common to put your own needs last when caring for a child you love. But to be the best you can be, you need to take care of yourself, too. Here are some tips to help you recharge.
Radiation therapy, also called radiotherapy, irradiation, or X-ray therapy, is one of the most common forms of cancer treatment.
Certain cancers, or cancer treatment, can weaken the immune system, requiring a child to stay home to avoid exposure to germs. Here are ways to help your child make the best of it.
Taking care of a chronically ill child is one of the most draining and difficult tasks a parent can face. But support groups, social workers, and family friends often can help.
Note: All information is for educational purposes only. For specific medical advice, diagnoses, and treatment, consult your doctor.
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