Most people who get kidney cancer form Wilms tumor, also called nephroblastoma, are young children between one and five years. But it happens that children of other ages and adults get the disease, although it is unusual. Nearly nine out of ten get well after treatment. The cancer tumor usually sits in one of the kidneys, but can sometimes sit in both kidneys and usually in slightly younger children.
Symptoms of kidney cancer in children
The most common symptom is a lump, swelling or bulge on the baby’s stomach that does not hurt but which feels clear and does not disappear. It often takes a long time for the cancerous tumor to produce symptoms. Therefore, it can be quite large when detected.
Some children may have had stomach pain with or without constipation. Blood in the urine is an unusual symptom for this particular kidney tumor, but it does occur. You should always seek care if you have blood in your urine.
For the most part, an ultrasound examination is enough to detect the cancerous tumor. Sometimes the doctor may want to supplement with computed tomography or magnetic camera examination to be sure. Both kidneys are examined, although it is most common for the cancerous tumor to just sit in a kidney.
About one in five children with Wilm’s tumor have metastases that have spread to the lungs when the disease is discovered. Therefore, the lungs are always x-rayed as part of the investigation. Although the tumor has spread to the lungs, most people get rid of the disease, but the treatment can be longer and more intense.
Treatment for kidney cancer in children
For most people, the treatment begins with cytostatic drugs for four to six weeks to shrink the cancerous tumor. Then the tumor is removed. If the disease is only in one of the kidneys, it is common for the whole kidney to be removed because it can be done with a kidney. In a small child, the other kidney grows and takes over most of the function from the kidney that has been removed. If the disease is present in both kidneys, the doctor tries to save one kidney by removing the cancer tumor only. During surgery, lymph nodes that are located near the kidney are also removed for doctors to see if cancer has spread there.
After the operation, most children receive cytostatic treatment in batches according to a certain schedule, also called a protocol. Some children are treated for a few weeks and others for up to just over half a year. Some may also need radiation therapy to the areas where the cancerous tumor was located to make sure cancer does not return.
Usually with post-checks for a long time
Most people become well after the treatment and also receive so little treatment that the risk of late complications is very small. All children may go on post-check-ups quite often for several years, partly to find out if the disease is coming back, and partly to see how the child develops and the body functions after treatment. If the child has received radiotherapy or a certain type of cytostatic, there is an increased risk of late complications and the child should, therefore, be under control even in adulthood.