Wilms’ Tumour

A rare cancer of the kidney, also known as a nephroblastoma

  • Usually develops before the age of 5
  • Sometimes runs in families
  • Gender and lifestyle are not significant factors

Wilms’ tumour is a rare type of kidney cancer, affecting about 1 in 10,000 children each year. The tumour commonly develops before the age of 5, and it may be present at birth. Usually, one kidney is affected, but in about 1 in 10 children with the disease tumours occur in both kidneys. Wilms’ tumour sometimes runs in families, but in most cases the cause is unknown.

What are the symptoms?

A tumour may be large before symptoms appear. Symptoms may include:

  • Obvious swelling in the abdomen.

  • Abdominal pain or discomfort.

  • Occasionally, blood in the urine.

A child with these symptoms should be seen by a doctor immediately.

What might be done?

The doctor will examine your child and test a urine sample for the presence of blood. If the doctor suspects that there is a tumour in the kidney, further tests will be necessary. Ultrasound scanning or CT scanning of the kidneys may be performed. Other tests, such as a chest X-ray, may also be carried out to check if the cancer has spread elsewhere in the body.

Surgical removal of the affected kidney is the usual treatment for Wilms’ tumour. The remaining healthy kidney can easily perform the work of both. To destroy any remaining cancerous cells, an affected child may have radiotherapy and/or chemotherapy. In rare cases in which both the kidneys need to be removed, dialysis or a kidney transplant is necessary. Treatment has a high success rate, and about 8 in 10 affected children are free of the cancer after 5 years.

From the 2010 revision of the Complete Home Medical Guide © Dorling Kindersley Limited.

The subjects, conditions and treatments covered in this encyclopaedia are for information only and may not be covered by your insurance product should you make a claim.

Back to top