What is Wilms tumour?

Wilms’ tumour is a type of kidney cancer. It is a very rare condition. It only affects about 1 in every 50,000 children.

It is also known as nephroblastoma.

It is a cancer that begins in the kidneys. The cancer cells are abnormal. This is because they have a certain gene mutation. This can lead to the cancer spreading to other areas of the body.

Wilms tumour is often found in the adrenal glands, the chest cavity, the testicles, and the bones.

What causes Wilms tumour?

Wilms tumour is caused by a gene mutation. This can be caused by:

  • A genetic condition
  • Gene mutation
  • Radiation
  • Exposure to certain chemicals

Wilms tumour is not caused by smoking.

What are the risk factors for Wilms tumour?

The main risk factor for Wilms tumour is a genetic condition. The risk of Wilms tumour is higher in children with a genetic condition called neurofibromatosis type 1 (NF1).

This is an inherited condition. It affects the nerves. It causes certain types of tumours to grow very quickly.

You are also at risk of Wilms tumour if you have inherited a gene mutation from a parent.

What are the symptoms of Wilms tumour?

The symptoms of Wilms tumour vary between children. They can include:

  • Pain in the tummy (abdomen)
  • Abdominal swelling
  • Fatigue
  • Feeling sick (nausea)
  • Loss of appetite
  • Loss of weight
  • Feeling tired (lethargic)
  • Shortness of breath
  • Feeling tired (fatigue)
  • A feeling of heaviness in the tummy (abdomen)
  • Rash

Some children have none of the above symptoms.

The symptoms of Wilms tumour can be similar to other conditions, such as:

  • Kidney stones
  • Stomach ache
  • Heartburn
  • Constipation
  • Diarrhoea
  • Blood in the urine (haematuria)
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Low blood pressure (hypotension)

How is Wilms tumour diagnosed?

Your child’s healthcare team will do a full physical examination. This can include a review of your child’s symptoms and a general health check.

The healthcare team will also ask you questions about your child’s past health, family history and any other health conditions.

The healthcare team may also refer you to a specialist. This is to help with diagnosis. If your child has Wilms tumour, you will be referred to:

  • A paediatric oncologist. This is an expert in Wilms tumour. It is a specialist in cancer.
  • A radiologist. This is an expert in how the tumour looks. It is a specialist in imaging.

The healthcare team will also ask your child’s healthcare team about your child’s:

  • Past health
  • Family history
  • Symptoms
  • Any other health conditions your child has

They will be able to tell you how to look after your child at home.

Your child’s healthcare team may also arrange some tests. These can include:

  • Imaging scans. These can include a CT scan or an MRI scan. These can show the size and the shape of the tumour.
  • Biopsy. This is where a healthcare provider takes a small sample of the tumour. This is to check if it is Wilms tumour.

How is Wilms tumour treated?

There is no treatment for Wilms tumour. Treatment is only for symptoms and to make sure that your child gets the best possible care. Your child’s healthcare team will give you information about this.

Treatment is only for the symptoms of Wilms tumour. It is not to cure your child.

Treatment for Wilms tumour is done to help ease symptoms. It is used to:

  • Make it easier for your child to go to school
  • Make it easier for your child to do their daily activities
  • Make it easier for your child to sleep

Treatment will also help your child to feel better.

Depending on your child’s symptoms and how serious the tumour is, they may have treatments that are:

  • Surgery. This is a surgical procedure. It aims to remove the tumour.
  • Chemotherapy. This is a treatment that uses drugs. It aims to kill the tumour cells.
  • Targeted therapy. This is a treatment that uses drugs to target the specific parts of the tumour that cause the symptoms.
  • Pain relief. This is a treatment that relieves the symptoms of your child’s tumour.
  • Monitoring. This is a treatment that checks how your child’s tumour is doing. This is done to see if it is responding to treatment.

There is no treatment that can cure Wilms tumour. But it can stop the tumour from getting bigger.

How can I help my child?

Your child’s healthcare professional will give you information about how to look after your child at home.

You can help your child by:

  • Checking your child’s symptoms and general health
  • Talking with your child’s healthcare professional
  • Being an active part of your child’s treatment
  • Keeping up to date with any new information and treatments
  • Talking with your child’s healthcare professional if you have questions or concerns

When should I call my child’s healthcare professional?

  • Symptoms that get worse
  • Symptoms that get worse over time
  • New symptoms

Key points about Wilms tumour

  • Wilms tumour is a rare cancer that affects the kidneys.
  • It is often found in the adrenal glands, the chest cavity, the testicles, and the bones.
  • It is not caused by smoking.
  • It is caused by a genetic condition.
  • It can be diagnosed in childhood.
  • It is treated with surgery.
  • It is treated with chemotherapy.
  • It can also be treated with targeted therapy.
  • It can be monitored with imaging scans.

Finally

  • Find out about the symptoms of Wilms tumour.
  • Find out about Wilms tumour treatment.

Images by Freepik

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