This article will cover basic information on Wilm's tumors, what they are, the signs and symptoms, diagnosis and treatment.
Contents of this article:
Here are some key points about Wilms' tumor. More detail and supporting information is in the main article.
- Wilms' tumor is a very rare kidney cancer that predominantly affects children.
- The outlook for Wilms' tumor is typically good.
- Symptoms include a swollen abdomen and abnormal urine coloration.
- The tumors are thought to begin developing while in the womb.
- Females and people of black African origin have a slightly higher risk of Wilms' tumor.
- Treatment usually involves surgery, chemotherapy, and occasionally radiotherapy.
- Wilms' tumor is named for Dr. Max Wilms, a German surgeon who first described the condition.
- Around 500 cases are reported per year in the US.
- There is a genetic component to Wilms' tumor.
What are Wilms' tumors?
Wilms' tumors almost exclusively develop in the kidneys of young children.
Over three-quarters of cases occur in otherwise healthy children, while one quarter are linked to other developmental abnormalities. Treatment generally has a high success rate, with over 90% of patient surviving at least five years - in other words, outlook is good.
Usually just one kidney is affected; however, sometimes both may be. The tumor is thought to have developed from immature kidney cells.
Experts say that a Wilms' tumor is caused by the loss or inactivation of a tumor suppressor gene called QT1 on chromosome 11. Tumor suppressor genes generally hold back tumor growth and control cell growth.
Symptoms of Wilms' tumorDuring the early stages there may be no signs and symptoms at all. Even a fairly large tumor may be painless. However, in the majority of cases the tumors are found before they have started to metastasize (spread to other parts of the body), even the larger ones. The following signs and symptoms are possible:
- A swelling in the abdomen
- A non-tender abdominal mass may be felt
- Elevated body temperature (fever)
- Hematuria - bloody urine
- Abnormal urine color
- Lack of appetite (reduced appetite)
- Hypertension - high blood pressure
- Pains in the abdomen - caused by pressure on other organs near the tumor
- Large and distended veins that appear across the abdomen
- Hemihypertrophy - enlargement of one side of the body.
On the next page, we look at causes and diagnosis of Wilms' tumor.