Nephroblastoma (Wilms’ tumor)

Disease database

Nephroblastoma, also known as Wilms’ tumor, is a rare type of kidney cancer that primarily affects children. It is named after Dr. Max Wilms, a German surgeon who first described the disease in 1899. Wilms’ tumor usually occurs in children aged 3 to 4 years and is rarely found in older children or adults.

Abdominal Pain and Swelling

One of the most common symptoms of nephroblastoma is abdominal pain and swelling. The tumor grows in the kidney and can cause discomfort or a feeling of fullness in the abdomen. Children may complain of pain or tenderness in the affected area, and parents may notice a visible swelling or mass.

Fever, Nausea, and Vomiting

In some cases, children with nephroblastoma may experience fever, nausea, and vomiting. These symptoms can be a result of the tumor pressing on the surrounding organs or causing an obstruction in the urinary tract. If your child has persistent fever or vomiting, it is important to seek medical attention.

High Blood Pressure

Another potential sign of nephroblastoma is high blood pressure. The tumor can release substances that increase blood pressure or affect the function of the kidneys, leading to hypertension. Regular blood pressure monitoring is crucial in children with suspected or diagnosed Wilms’ tumor.

Blood in Urine

Blood in the urine, also known as hematuria, is a concerning symptom that should not be ignored. It can be a sign of various kidney conditions, including nephroblastoma. If you notice blood in your child’s urine, it is essential to consult a healthcare professional for further evaluation.

Weight Loss and Fatigue

Children with nephroblastoma may experience unexplained weight loss and fatigue. The tumor can affect the body’s metabolism and lead to a decrease in appetite, resulting in weight loss. Additionally, the cancer cells can cause fatigue and weakness, making the child feel tired and lethargic.

Diagnosis and Treatment

Diagnosing nephroblastoma typically involves a combination of imaging tests, such as ultrasound, CT scan, or MRI, and a biopsy to confirm the presence of cancer cells. Once diagnosed, the treatment plan may include surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation therapy.


The primary treatment for nephroblastoma is surgical removal of the tumor. The surgeon will aim to remove the entire tumor along with the affected kidney, known as a nephrectomy. In some cases, if the tumor is small and confined to one area of the kidney, a partial nephrectomy may be possible.


Chemotherapy is often used before or after surgery to shrink the tumor and kill any remaining cancer cells. It involves the use of powerful drugs that target and destroy cancer cells throughout the body. The specific chemotherapy regimen will depend on the stage and characteristics of the tumor.

Radiation Therapy

Radiation therapy may be recommended in certain cases to target any remaining cancer cells after surgery. It uses high-energy beams to kill cancer cells and prevent their growth. Radiation therapy is carefully planned to minimize damage to healthy tissues surrounding the tumor.

Prognosis and Survival Rate

The prognosis for nephroblastoma has significantly improved over the years, with a high overall survival rate. The five-year survival rate for children with Wilms’ tumor is around 90%. However, the prognosis can vary depending on factors such as the stage of the tumor, age at diagnosis, and response to treatment.

Prevention and Early Detection

As the exact cause of nephroblastoma is unknown, there are no specific preventive measures. However, early detection plays a crucial role in improving outcomes. Regular check-ups and prompt medical attention for any concerning symptoms can help in the early diagnosis and treatment of Wilms’ tumor.

Support and Coping Strategies

A diagnosis of nephroblastoma can be overwhelming for both the child and their family. It is essential to seek support from healthcare professionals, support groups, and other families who have gone through similar experiences. Open communication, emotional support, and access to resources can help cope with the challenges of the disease.


Nephroblastoma, or Wilms’ tumor, is a rare kidney cancer that primarily affects children. Recognizing the symptoms, such as abdominal pain, swelling, fever, and blood in urine, is crucial for early detection and prompt treatment. With advancements in medical care, the prognosis for nephroblastoma has significantly improved, offering hope for children and their families. If you suspect any symptoms or have concerns, it is important to consult a healthcare professional for proper evaluation and guidance.

Haroon Rashid, MD
Rate author
Urgent Care Center of Arlington, VA
Add a comment