Wilms Tumor

wilms tumor
Wilms tumor, 130x magnification

Wilms tumor, named after a German physician who discovered this particular form of cancer, is the most common type of kidney cancer in children with approximately 500 new cases diagnosed in the United States every year 1. It is rarely diagnosed in children older than six years old 1.

A pair of fist-sized organs located in the abdomen, the kidneys are responsible for the production of urine that removes waste from the blood and other substances that control blood pressure. This particular type of kidney tumor is usually larger than the kidney itself when it is diagnosed, weighing on average around one pound.

While Wilms tumor is curable in a majority of children, it is important to seek treatment with an oncologist and a team of pediatric specialists who have experience in treating this form of cancer since it is rare and can be fast-growing. Treatment options could include one or more of the following:


The standard first-line treatment for Wilms tumor is surgery in order to remove the tumor. There are two types of surgery that may be performed depending on the size and location of the cancer.

A radical nephrectomy, which removes the tumor as well as the entire kidney, the ureter and the adrenal gland, is the most common operation performed. A partial nephrectomy, where only the portion of the kidney that is affected by the cancer, is usually reserved for children who have Wilms tumor in both kidneys. This allows for the kidneys to remain functioning as normal as possible so that dialysis can be avoided. However, if both kidneys need to be removed, a kidney transplant is a likely treatment pathway.


Chemotherapy is usually given following surgery in order to ensure that all the cancerous cells have been removed. Agents commonly used for the treatment of Wilms tumor include carboplatin, cyclophosphamide, dactinomycin, doxorubicin, etoposide, ifosfamide or vincristine. These chemotherapy drugs may be given alone or in combination with one another.

Radiation Therapy

External beam radiation therapy, a type of treatment that delivers high energy X-rays to kill cancer cells from outside the body, is usually reserved for Wilms tumors that are in more advanced stages at diagnosis.


  1. American Cancer Society. Wilms Tumor Detailed Guide. Accessed on November 8, 2010.

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