Wilms’ Tumor

What is Wilms’ Tumor?

Wilms’ tumor is a rare form of cancer that starts in a person’s kidneys. It is a condition that can affect both kidneys at once, but often occurs in only one kidney. The tumor that develops is a hard and solid mass on the kidney.

Wilms’ tumor is also sometimes referred to a nephroblastoma and affect children much more often than it affects adults. While this condition is rare, it is the most common type of kidney cancer that affects children.

There are no known causes for Wilms’ tumor. However, in some rare cases, it is possible that the defect in the DNA that causes this type of kidney cancer and tumor to develop is passed down from a parent to child. It is also possible that exposure to toxic chemicals may contribute to the development of this cancer. Wilms’ tumor is also linked to certain birth defects or syndromes like a missing iris or Denys-Drash syndrome.

What are the Symptoms of Wilms’ Tumor?

One of the most common symptoms of Wilms’ tumor is abdominal pain. This pain may correspond with abdominal swelling and the presence of an abdominal mass that can be seen or felt beneath the surface of the skin.

Fever, nausea, constipation, a loss of appetite, and vomiting may also be symptoms of this type of cancer. A person may also have blood in their urine and high blood pressure when they suffer from Wilms’ tumor.

Wilm’s Tumor Causes

The most common cause of Wilm’s tumor is family genetics. Heightening the threat of this kidney cancer is a family history of the disorder. As the mutated DNA genes or abnormal cells accumulate, they form a tumor on one or both kidneys. This disease is more prevalent in children under five years of age, although it affects some adults.

Medical science suggests undeveloped or immature kidney cells contribute to Wilm’s tumor growth. Some cases happen by chance while others are due to abnormal fetus cell development, escalating the dangers of Wilm’s tumor. Male infants born with an incorrectly positioned urethra or testicles failing to drop into the scrotum are more at risk for this tumor. Another type of birth defect associated with Wilm’s tumor is the lack of an iris as part of the eye development.

How is a Wilms’ Tumor Treated?

Surgery is usually the first step in the treatment of Wilms’ tumor. The surgery performed may involve removing just part of the affected kidney or can require removing the entire kidney depending on the size of the mass and the stage of the cancer. Chemotherapy is also a common part of the treatment process for Wilms’ tumor to ensure that all cancer cells are eradicated.

Depending on the staging and how far the cancer may have spread, doctors may also recommend radiation therapy. Radiation therapy may be external or internal. Internal radiation involves implanting radioactive seeds or catheters into the body the release constant low doses of radiation to prevent cancer from spreading or re-growing.

Wilm’s Tumor Prevention

There are no methods to prevent Wilm’s tumor given genetics and prenatal development are primary causes for the tumor. Early discovery rates have improved with DNA testing, early detection, and examinations. The best method of prevention is an awareness of your family’s medical history, advising your doctors and taking precautions.

In most cases, Wilm’s tumor is curable provided the disease has not spread to other organs or the surrounding tissues. Therapy treatments include chemotherapy, radiation or surgery. Extracting a single cancerous kidney followed up with long term medical monitoring has been successful for a productive life. Sometimes, the removal of the tumor is possible, leaving both kidneys intact and functioning with short-term recovery after surgery.

Children carrying the genetic DNA should be tested and monitored regularly up to the age of eight or early adolescence. The ongoing examinations help parents and doctors detect any abnormalities or recurring problems that lead to Wilm’s tumor.

Last Reviewed:
October 11, 2016
Last Updated:
October 23, 2017
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