A Wilms tumor is a relatively uncommon type of childhood cancer that develops in kidney cells. Usually, only one kidney is affected, but sometimes cancer cells are detected in both kidneys at the same time. The cancer can also potentially spread to the surrounding lymph nodes and the lungs.
Also known as nephroblastoma, a Wilms tumor typically arises with no known cause, although experts have linked certain rare genetic syndromes to its development. These include hemihypertrophy, WAGR syndrome, Denys-Drash syndrome and Beckwith-Wiedemann syndrome.
What are the symptoms of a Wilms tumor?
In many cases, the first sign of a Wilms tumor is a solid, palpable mass that suddenly develops in the midsection. Other symptoms can include:
- Stomach pain and swelling
- Bloody urine
- Loss of appetite
- Weakness and fatigue
- High blood pressure
How is a Wilms tumor treated?
Through extensive research and clinical trials, significant progress has been made in Wilms tumor treatment in recent years. For most patients, treatment involves one or more of the following options:
- Surgery – The goal of Wilms tumor surgery is to remove the entire tumor in one piece in order to minimize the chance of cancer spread. This may involve an open radical nephrectomy to remove the entire affected kidney, ureter and adrenal gland or an open partial nephrectomy to remove only the cancerous portion of the affected kidney. Both procedures can also be performed laparoscopically in some cases.
- Chemotherapy – Powerful cancer-fighting drugs may be administered as a standalone treatment, before surgery to shrink a Wilms tumor and make it easier to remove or after surgery to reduce the risk of a recurrence. A systemic treatment that may be considered for a Wilms tumor that has spread, chemo enters the bloodstream and travels throughout the body to reach widespread cancer cells.
- Radiation therapy – High-energy rays are generated by a linear accelerator and targeted directly at a Wilms tumor to destroy cancerous cells. Like chemotherapy, radiation therapy may be delivered before, after or instead of surgery.
When detected early and treated aggressively, a Wilms tumor often can be successfully treated and even cured.
If you have questions or would like to learn more about Wilms tumor treatment, you are welcome to talk with a cancer specialist in the Urologic Oncology Program at Moffitt Cancer Center. To request a consultation, call 1-888-663-3488 or complete our new patient registration form online. As our patient, you will be a top priority at a cancer center that delivers nationally-ranked care in new and transformative ways.