About Cancer > Wilms Cancer

Wilms Cancer

Names after Dr Max Wilms, the Wilms Cancer is a type of renal (kidney) cancer that often affects children under the age of seven. 1

How does Wilms Cancer form?

It is thought that the Wilms Cancer develops from immature cells called “nephrogenic crests”, immature Kidney cells that don’t disappear at birth. These cells can be found in many children diagnosed with Wilms cancer. 1

As Wilms cancers are solid cancers, they are given a stage of development. This will often dictate the course of treatment required to treat the cancer. Different stages include:

Stages of Wilms Cancer

Stage 1 - The cancer is only affecting the kidney and has not begun to spread. It can be completely removed with surgery.

Stage 2 - The cancer has begun to spread beyond the kidney to nearby structures, but it’s still possible to remove it completely with surgery.

Stage 3 - The cancer has spread beyond the kidney; either because the cancer has burst before (or during) the operation, has spread to lymph glands (nodes), or has not been completely removed by surgery.

Stage 4 – The cancer has spread to other parts of the body such as the lungs or liver. Cancers in other parts of the body are known as metastases.

Stage 5 - There are cancer in both kidneys (bilateral Wilms’ cancer) 1

Symptoms of Wilms Cancers

Symptoms for Wilms cancer most commonly include a swollen abdomen or a large lump in the abdomen. In addition, the cancer may bleed causing pain in the kidneys or blood in the urine. There may also be a high temperature, upset stomach or weight loss. 1

Incidence & Causes of Wilms Cancer

Although it is thought Wilms cancer forms from immature kidney cells, the causes of this are still not fully understood. In some cases, other family members have been diagnosed with Wilm’s Cancer suggesting a genetic factor. However there are other instances where other conditions occur at birth such as lack of an iris, abnormalities in the genitals and hemihpertrophy1

The number of children in England Diagnosed with a renal cancer between 2003 and 2012 was 793 accounting for 5% of cancers diagnosed in that period2


The stage of the cancer will ultimately define the course of treatment required. If manageable surgery may be enough to remove the cancer. However in other cases chemotherapy or radiotherapy may be required. 1

Outlook / Survival

The below is based on the five year survival rate for children who were diagnosed under the age of 15 in England.
For those diagnosed in 2008-2012 the survival rate was 91%, an increase of 1% for those diagnosed in 2003-2007 signalling an improvement in the effectiveness of treatments2

Although free of cancer, approximately 60% of childhood cancer survivors will suffer from “late-effects” caused by the treatments used to save their lives 1

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