If you are looking for information on this site about Wilm’s Tumor, chances are you had it as a kid and are now a long term survivor (YEA!) or know a child who has been diagnosed with it. Wilm’s Tumor is most often seen in young children between the ages of 3 and 5. Thankfully this type of cancer is very curable and the type of treatment given does not cause significant effects later in life.
Interesting Little Tidbits…
Wilm’s Tumor is a cancer that grows in the kidney – usually in only one kidney. It is the second most common abdominal tumor in children and is one of the few childhood cancers that occur more frequently in African Americans than Caucasians. As with other childhood cancers, we don’t know of any particular risk factors for the development of Wilm’s Tumor. That is, there is nothing that you did, ate or drank or were exposed to, that is known to have caused the tumor. We do know that kids born with certain other abnormalities are at increased risk for developing Wilm’s Tumor. These include other urinary tract abnormalities, the absence of the colored part of your eye (iris), or the enlargement of one side of your body (hemihypertrophy). Who knows why – go figure!
What Does Staging Mean?
Like many other childhood cancers, Wilm’s Tumor has a staging system to determine the extent of disease at the time of your diagnosis. This staging helps your medical team determine the necessary course of treatment:
Cancer is found only in one kidney and can be completely removed by surgery.
Cancer is still in only one kidney, but has spread to the areas near the kidney. It can be completely removed by surgery.
Cancer is still only in one kidney but has spread to areas near the kidney, and cannot be completely removed by surgery.
The cancer may have spread to important blood vessels or organs near the kidney or throughout the abdomen, so that the doctor cannot remove all the cancer during surgery. The cancer may also have spread to the lymph nodes (small bean-shaped structures found throughout the body that produce and store infection-fighting cells) near the kidney.
Cancer has spread to organs further away from the kidney, such as the lungs, liver, bone, and brain.
Cancer is in both kidneys. This is relatively rare.
What Happens Next?
As mentioned above, treatment is based on the initial staging. There are three primary treatments for all patients with Wilm’s tumor:
If possible, the surgeon will try to surgically remove the tumor and leave the rest of the kidney in place. If the surgeon is unable to remove the entire tumor, a biopsy (a small piece of the tumor) is taken to be able to determine the stage of the tumor.
Chemotherapy is given to all kids diagnosed with Wilm’s Tumor.
Radiation therapy may be given along with the chemotherapy if the disease has spread outside of the kidney.
The Good News…
The overall cure rate for the lower stages of Wilm’s Tumor is 90 percent. This is among the highest cure rate in all pediatric cancers. The other good news is that the therapy used does not usually cause long term side effects. However, survivors of this disease usually have only one of their two kidneys. Moving On… You can live a normal, healthy life with one kidney, but should follow some restrictions. If you have had a kidney removed, your doctor may recommend that you don’t participate in certain contact sports like lacrosse, football and soccer. These sports pose the greatest threat to receiving a blow to your abdomen, and possibly injuring your remaining kidney.