Cancers in Childhood – Wilms’ Tumor

Wilms’ tumor is rarely found in children (but confined to children less than 15 years of age). However, it is the most prevalent type of childhood cancer and one of the most common childhood cancers. Wilms’ tumor is also known as nephroblastoma and ordinarily diagnosed at around three years of age. It is less prevalent in children older than eight years. Some children with Wilms’ tumor also have one or more birth defects including:

• Aniridia. Defects in the eyes.
• Hemihypertrophy. One side of the body larger than the other.
• Cryptorchidism. Undescended testicle.
• Hypospadias. Urine exits from under the penis.

In children with a family history of Wilms’ tumor, a physician may order a regular complete blood count (CBC) and abdominal imaging.

Treatment for Wilms’ Tumor

Treatment for Wilms’ tumor may include surgical removal of a portion or all of a kidney, chemotherapy, and radiotherapy. Many affected children undergo a combination of these therapies.

If the cancer has metastasized to other parts of the body, more individually tailored treatments may be necessary. Depending on the child’s particular stage of cancer, there may be severe side effects such as:

• Neutropenia.
• Weight loss.
• Diarrhea.
• Hair loss.

The treating physician may prescribe other medications and treatments to deal with these and other side effects. Specialists such as pediatricians, surgeons, urologists, and cancer specialists will probably be involved in a particular child’s treatment.

With metastasis to both kidneys or blood vessels, medical professionals may order chemotherapy or radiotherapy before surgery to see if the tumor decreases in size or spread. The vast majority of Wilms’ tumors are cured. The exact survival rates have not yet been determined and will depend on the severity of the disease, treatments involved, and a child’s medical history.

There are currently no preventative treatments are available for Wilms’ tumors. In addition to the above therapies, treatments may also include things like child and family counseling, online or personal support groups, financial aid, and certain nutrition and diet recommendations.

 

The Kidneys

Wilms’ tumors commonly affect the kidneys. Approximately 90% of kidney cancers found in children are these tumors. The majority of Wilms’ tumors affect only one of the two kidneys. Ordinarily, there is only a single tumor on one kidney. Only approximately 5% of Wilms’ tumor cases in children have cancer discovered involving both kidneys.

 

Genetic Factors

Some medical professionals have theorized that particular genetic disorders could increase a child’s changes for the development of Wilms’ tumor: Beckwith-Wiedemann syndrome, WAGR syndrome, Frasier syndrome, Perlman syndrome, and other birth defects. However, it should be noted that genetic factors are not completely linked to Wilms’ tumors. The cancer also affects more boys and girls.

 

Summary

While Wilms’ tumors can be a serious condition in children, it is very rare and surgical treatment appears to be the best therapy increasing survival. While treatment for Wilms’ tumors can be very complex and scary for children, the support of family and friends is paramount in a child’s successful completion of treatment. Once a Wilms’ tumor has been treated, a child’s physical condition should be closely monitored until the age of eight years to be sure the cancer doesn’t return or spread.