A Wilms’ tumor, also known as a nephroblastoma, is a rare, cancerous, kidney tumor that affects children. The tumor can be found in one or both kidneys and tends to be found in children between the ages of 3 and 4. The risk for a Wilms’ tumor decreases after the age of 5. Although some children who have a Wilms’ tumor appear healthy, some symptoms may include a lump in the abdomen (abdominal mass), pain or swelling, blood in the urine, nausea, constipation, loss of appetite, and fever.
All tumors are the result of an overgrowth of tissue that is caused by errors in the DNA of a cell. A Wilms’ tumor is the result of this happening in the kidney. There are multiple risk factors for a child having a Wilms’ tumor, including being African American, having a family history of Wilms’ tumors, being born with an abnormality in the colored portion of the eye (aniridia), having one part of the body that is larger than the other (hemihypertrophy), having undescended testicles (cryptorchidism), or having the urinary opening on the underside of the penis (hypospadias). Wilms’ tumors are also seen as part of a few different genetic conditions, including WAGR syndrome, Denys-Drash Syndrome, and Beckwith-Wiedemann syndrome.
A diagnosis is usually made using a physical exam, blood and urine tests, and imaging tests (CT or MRI). Once a diagnosis is made, the options for treatment include surgery to remove the tumor, chemotherapy, or radiation. Recent improvements for detection and treatment of a Wilms’ tumor has improved the outlook for many children. If your child has been diagnosed with a Wilms’ tumor, talk with their doctor about all treatment options. Support groups can provide additional information and connect you with other affected families.