Wilms’ tumor or nephroblastoma is mainly found in children, and usually occurs between ages one to five, in one or both kidneys.
It is a rare malignant tumor found in the kidneys; the most common kidney cancer in children.
Recent advances in technology have greatly improved the outlook for children who have been diagnosed with Wilms’ tumor.
The first sign you may have that your child has this tumor is if you feel an unexplained mass in the abdomen, possibly when you are dressing the child.
Sometimes your doctor may discover it during a general examination. The tumor can also remain undetected because they seldom cause pain to the child, even when they are fairly large.
Generally the symptoms will include things like blood in the urine, weight loss, reduced appetite, tummy pain, vomiting and general lack of wellness. It is believed that the potential for the cancer begins before the child is born, as abnormal kidney cells form the basis of the tumor.
It is important to always have any unusual symptoms in your child checked out by your doctor as soon as possible. Don’t jump to any conclusions regarding the cause of your child’s symptoms, as they may not be an indication of anything serious.
Testing that may be used to form an accurate diagnosis include an ultrasound, CT scan and MRI. If the diagnosis is Wilms’ tumor, your child’s disease will be graded according to the spread of the cancer, and this will determine the appropriate treatment.
Treatment for Wilms’ tumor is surgery and chemotherapy, with the possibility of radiation therapy as well. The prognosis will depend on the stage of the tumor and the extent of the surgery required.
Research is on-going to find better ways of treating children with Wilms’ tumor and you may be asked to include your child in a clinical trial.
Consider this option carefully and get all the information that is available before making your decision. Talk to parents of children who are already involved in a trial so you know what you and your child can expect.
Children’s cancer affects the whole family and there are some strategies that can help you all get through the process. Make sure your child has a favorite toy when you see doctors or go for tests.
Stay with your child during all procedures that you are allowed to, explain in their language what will happen and reassure them constantly.
Make a time for playing with your child when they are in hospital, and encourage them to interact with hospital staff and other patients.
Make time for your other children; they still need you and your attention, tell them what is happening with their sibling – they need to understand what is happening too. Seek support and advice from staff and other parents of children with cancer, and remember to also look after yourself.