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Wilms tumor: children's kidney cancer (nehproblastoma)


A nephroblastoma, or Wilms tumor, is a cancer that develops in children. It is rare and usually occurs in children between 1 and 5 years of age. The exact origin of this cancer is not known, all we know is that it develops in the embryonic tissue of a kidney. As with all cancers, cells will multiply and cause the formation of a tumor. This cancer forms a mass in the abdomen, swelling rapidly and associated with complications such as bleeding or cell death, called necrosis. Most of the time, only one kidney is affected, but the tumor can be bilateral in about 5% of cases.


Most often, a nephroblastoma doesn't cause any symptoms, and its discovery is made by parents, who can feel a palpable mass in the abdomen. Sometimes, other signs are associated with the mass:


In the absence of symptoms, it is only by chance that we find the presence of a ball in the stomach of the child. To confirm the presence of a Wilms tumor, a health care professional will proceed with an abdominal ultrasound, which is the test of choice to highlight the presence of this tumor. An abdominal CT scan is frequently performed as well. In case of a confirmation of nephroblastoma, a staging is necessary to measure the migration of tumor cells into lymph nodes, adjacent tissues or distant organs.


Treatment of nephroblastoma in children will depend on the size of the tumor, its extension in the abdomen, but also the results of the staging. In general, treatment first consists of chemotherapy, kidney cancer being particularly sensitive to this type of treatment. This will help in reducing the size of the tumor before surgical removal. The removal of the kidney as a whole is called a nephrectomy. Radiotherapy is also possible in advanced cases. Overall, 80% of kidney cancers in children can be cured.


A nephroblastoma cannot be prevented.