The majority of people are born with two kidneys, which are located on each side of the spine below the ribcage. They filter blood and make urine, and also produce hormones that regulate blood pressure, generate red blood cells, and help maintain strong and healthy bones.
Pediatric kidney (renal) tumors occur when malignant (cancer) cells are present in the kidney tissue. They can occur in one or both kidneys and may spread to other areas in the body. There are many types of kidney tumors including, but not limited to:
- Clear cell sarcoma
- Congenital mesoblastic nephroma
- Malignant rhabdoid tumor
- Renal cell carcinoma
- Wilms tumor
Wilms tumor is the most common type of pediatric kidney cancer, accounting for about six percent of all childhood cancers. The cause of Wilms tumor is usually unknown, but there are a few rare conditions that indicate an increased risk for developing Wilms tumor:
- Beckwith-Wiedemann syndrome (an “overgrowth” syndrome)
- Denys-Drash syndrome (a syndrome of renal failure, hypertension, and genital abnormalities)
- Hemihypertrophy (one side of the body larger than the other)
- WAGR syndrome (Wilms, aniridia, genitourinary abnormalities)
If a kidney tumor is present, the followings signs and symptoms may occur:
- Appearance of a solid mass in the abdomen
- Swelling of the abdomen
- Blood in the urine
- Abdominal pain
- Weakness or fatigue
- High blood pressure
- Decreased appetite
- Weight loss
Keep in mind that many of these symptoms could be related to other more common illnesses or conditions. Speak with your child’s doctor about any concerns you may have.
Treatment for kidney tumors can include radiation, chemotherapy, surgery, biologic therapy and stem cell transplantation. Genetic counselling may also be offered to children who could have an inherited condition or a genetic condition that may increase the risk of developing Wilms tumor.
Additional sources: National Cancer Institute and National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases.