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Alternative namesNephroblastoma; Kidney tumor
DefinitionWilms' tumor is a cancerous tumor of the kidney that occurs in children.
Causes, incidence, and risk factors
Wilms' tumor is one of the most common tumors of the abdomen in children and the most common type of kidney tumor. The exact cause of tumor formation in most children is unknown.
It is associated with certain birth defects including urinary tract abnormalities, absence of the iris (aniridia), and hemihypertrophy (enlargement of one side of the body). It is more common among some siblings and twins, which suggests a possible genetic cause. The tumor may become quite large, but usually remains encapsulated (self-enclosed). It may spread to other body tissues, especially the lungs.
CAUTION: Avoid palpation of the abdomen, and use care during bathing and handling to avoid injury to the tumor site.
Signs and testsSpecial emphasis is placed on the history and physical exam -- looking for a family history of cancer and for associated birth defects in the child. The physical examination reveals an abdominal mass . High blood pressure may also be present.
Clinical staging of the tumor is done to determine the extent of the tumor and to maximize the effectiveness of treatment plans. Surgical exploration and removal of the tumor is scheduled as soon as possible.
Regional lymph nodes, abdominal organs, and other tissues are examined and removed if the tumor has spread to those areas. Radiation therapy and chemotherapy will often be started after surgery, depending on the stage of the tumor.
Expectations (prognosis)With treatment, the disease has a high cure rate. Children with a localized tumor have a 90% cure rate when treated with surgery and chemotherapy ; or with surgery, radiation, and chemotherapy combined.
ComplicationsSpread of the tumor to the lungs, liver, bone, or brain is the most worrisome complication. High blood pressure and kidney damage may occur as the result of the tumor or its treatment. Removal of Wilms' tumor that is present in both kidneys may leave the patient with borderline kidney function.
Calling your health care providerCall your health care provider if you discover an abdominal mass in your child's abdomen, blood in the urine, or other symptoms suggestive of Wilms' tumor.
Call your health care provider if symptoms worsen or new symptoms develop during or after treatment for Wilms' tumor, particularly cough , chest pain , weight loss , or persistent fevers.
PreventionFor children with a known high risk of Wilms' tumor, screening with ultrasound of the kidneys may be recommended.
Update Date: 7/17/2002Scott Howard, M.D., M.S., Department of Pediatric Hematology/Oncology, St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, Memphis, TN. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network.
Last updated: Tue, 06 Jan 2009 00:20:03 GMT