Cancer Center

Wilms' Tumor (kidney) in Children

The Pediatric Surgical Oncology Program at the Cancer Center at The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia consists of a multidisciplinary team of experts in the treatment of Wilms' tumor. Many of our oncologists are also on the forefront of researching and developing new therapies in the treatment of this type of cancer.

What is Wilms' tumor?

Wilms' tumor, also called nephroblastoma, is a malignant (cancerous) tumor originating in the cells of the kidney. It is the most common type of renal (kidney) cancer and accounts for about 6 percent of all childhood cancers. As with any cancer, prognosis and long-term survival can vary greatly from child to child, but most children with Wilms' tumor can be cured of the disease.

Wilms' tumor is unrelated to adult kidney cancer. The tumor usually affects a single kidney, but approximately 5 to 10 percent of children with Wilms' tumor have both kidneys involved.

Who is diagnosed with Wilms' tumor?

Wilms' tumor occurs in children up to about age 8. About 75 percent of cases occur before age 5, and the average age of children with Wilms' tumor is 2 - 3 years. For unknown reasons, Wilms' tumor affects more black children than white children.

Most cases of Wilms' tumor occur by chance (sporadic). They are the result of mutations in cells in the kidneys that usually occur after birth. In some cases, however, a genetic defect increases the risk of Wilms' tumor.

What are the signs and symptoms of Wilms' tumor in children?

Wilms' tumor is characterized by:

How do we diagnose Wilms' tumor in your child?

After taking a complete medical history and doing a physical examination of your child, the physician may also order the following tests to look for spread of the cancer (metastases):

How is Wilms' tumor treated?

The affected kidney and possibly adjoining lymph nodes may be surgically removed. In addition, Wilms' tumor is treated by chemotherapy and high-dose radiation to kill remaining cancer cells.

The overall cure rate for Wilms' tumor is 85 percent. As with any cancer, however, prognosis and long-term survival can vary greatly from child to child. Prompt medical attention and aggressive therapy are important for the best prognosis. Continuous follow-up care is essential for a child diagnosed with Wilms' tumor because side effects of radiation and chemotherapy may occur as well as second malignancy.

Late effects/cancer survivorship

Some children treated for Wilms' tumor develop complications many years later. Our Cancer Survivorship Program provides you and your child with information about the potential long-term effects of the specific treatment your child received and ways of monitoring and treating these effects.

To schedule an appointment or request a second opinion, call 215-590-2810.
You may also contact us online with comments, questions, feedback and requests for information.

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