Wilms tumour is a tumour (growth of abnormal cells) in the kidney. It's the most common type of kidney cancer in children. It is most common in children younger than 5. In many cases, Wilms can be treated and cured.
Wilms is usually in one kidney (unilateral), but it can be in both (bilateral).
The cancer cells can spread to nearby lymph nodes. Or they may spread to other parts of the body, most often the lungs or liver.
Doctors don't know the cause for all Wilms tumours. Most children who get Wilms have no other health problems.
Some children are born with genetic diseases that increase the chance of having a Wilms tumour. These diseases can involve different parts of the body. This might include the urinary tract, the eyes, or the brain.
In very rare cases, Wilms may run in families.
Symptoms of Wilms tumour include:
The doctor will ask about your child's past health. He or she will do a physical examination.
Your child may have several imaging tests. An ultrasound test may be the first test used. CT or MRI scans can show the size of the tumour and if it's spread. Your child may have other tests such as:
Most of the time, a doctor will use surgery to remove the kidney with the tumour in it.
And in most cases, chemotherapy (chemo) will be used to destroy any cancer cells that are left. Chemo is medicine that destroys cancer cells. Your child may start chemo even before the tumour is removed.
Radiation therapy may be used for tumours that have spread or that look like they might spread. It uses high-energy rays, such as X-rays. The rays destroy cancer cells and shrink tumours in the body.
Ask your doctor about having your child take part in a clinical trial. A clinical trial is a study of a new or different way to treat cancer. People in clinical trials get the latest treatments for their cancer and are closely watched. Visit www.canadiancancertrials.ca for more information about clinical trials in Canada, or call the Canadian Cancer Society's information service at 1-888-939-3333.
You can also visit the U.S. National Cancer Institute's clinical trials website at http://www.cancer.gov/clinicaltrials/search. This site includes studies conducted in Canada.
After the tumour is removed, the doctor will talk with you about the stage of your child's cancer. There are 5 stages. Stage 1 means the tumour was still in the kidney and came out in one piece. Stages 2 to 4 mean the cancer has spread beyond the kidneys or to another organ, like the lungs. Stage 5 means that the cancer is in both kidneys.
The stage also helps doctors plan treatment after biopsy or surgery.
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Current as of: March 27, 2018
Adam Husney, MD - Family Medicine & Thomas M. Bailey, MD, CCFP - Family Medicine
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