Wilms’ tumor is a cancer of the kidney that occurs in children. It is the most common type of childhood cancers of the kidney. Wilms’ tumor, also known as nephroblastoma, usually affects children aged between 3 and 4 years while rarely develops in children over 6 years of age.
Wilms’ tumor is a malignant tumor that can affect both kidneys but most often develops in just one. The cause of Wilms’ tumor is unknown but scientists believe that it may arise from immature kidney cells. Genetic factors seem to play role as well in development of Wilms’ tumor. Some patients with Wilms’ tumor have congenital defects such as lack of an iris of the eye or abnormalities of the urinary tract. Sometimes, the disease runs in families. Symptoms of Wilms’ Tumor
Most often Wilms’ tumor is detected when it grows quire large as it initially does not cause any signs and symptoms. Despite being large, these tumors are in majority of cases still self-enclosed when discovered.
Some children with Wilms’ tumor experience abdominal pain, swelling in the abdomen, nausea and vomiting. Fever, constipation, decreased appetite and weight loss are common too. The affected child may have blood in urine and high blood pressure (hypertension). Treatment for Wilms’ Tumor
Generally, Wilms’ tumor is highly treatable disease. In fact, about 90% of Wilms’ tumors are curable provided that the tumor has not spread to other organs. The disease is commonly treated with surgery and chemotherapy. Radiation therapy may be also included in the treatment.
Wilms’ tumor can be of two types, namely with favorable histology and unfavorable (anaplastic) histology. The type is determined by the appearance of tumor’s cells under a microscope. Children with favorable histology have an excellent chance of being cured.
Surgical treatment for Wilms’ tumor includes removal of kidney tissue. This procedure is known as nephrectomy. Simple nephrectomy is a procedure in which the entire affected kidney is removed. Operated child can normally live with one kidney.
Partial nephrectomy involves removal of the tumor and surrounding kidney tissue. This procedure is used when the other kidney is damaged or has already been removed.
Radical nephrectomy is a procedure in which a surgeon removes the kidney, surrounding tissue, ureter, adrenal gland and nearby lymph nodes. Prevention of Wilms’ Tumor
There are no known ways to prevent Wilms’ tumor from occurring. However, children who are born with one or more risk factors for this type of cancer may be periodically screened with ultrasound of kidneys.