Pediatric Genitourinary Cancer
Genitourinary cancers affect the reproductive and urinary organs. If your child has genitourinary cancer, they need care from doctors with special expertise in how it affects children. At Children’s Health, our medical team has treated every type of pediatric genitourinary cancer. As one of the region’s largest pediatric cancer centers, we have the experience and expertise to know which treatments offer your child the greatest opportunity for a healthy life.
What is Pediatric Genitourinary Cancer?
Genitourinary cancer affects the reproductive organs and urinary (renal) system. These cancers are rare in children – only about 10% of childhood cancers are genitourinary. Genitourinary cancer can affect a child’s:
- Kidneys: These organs filter blood and remove excess waste and fluid from the body through urine.
- Ureter: This tube carries urine from the kidneys to the bladder.
- Bladder: This organ stores urine.
- Ovaries: These female reproductive organs produce and release eggs. The ovaries also make the female hormones estrogen and progesterone.
- Testicles (testes): These male reproductive glands produce and store sperm. They also make testosterone, a hormone.
What are the most common types of Pediatric Genitourinary Cancer?
The most common types of pediatric genitourinary cancer include:
Wilms tumors are the most common type of childhood kidney cancer. Nearly 90% of children who have kidney cancer have Wilms tumors (also called nephroblastoma). These tumors can form in one or both kidneys. They tend to appear before a child’s fifth birthday and are almost always detected by age 10.
Germ cell tumors
Germ cell tumors typically form in a boy’s testicles or a girl’s ovaries, but rarely may arise outside of these organs. Germ cell tumors are most common in adolescence but can occur at any age. These tumors may be benign (non-cancerous) or malignant (cancerous).
What are the signs and symptoms of Pediatric Genitourinary Cancer?
Small tumors rarely cause symptoms. As tumors grow larger, your child might experience these symptoms:
- Abdominal pain and swelling
- Blood in urine
- Loss of appetite and weight loss
- Nausea and vomiting
- Shortness of breath
- Abnormal mass/growth of the testicle
- Mass felt in the abdomen
- Pale skin caused by anemia (low red blood cell count)
How is Pediatric Genitourinary Cancer diagnosed?
We perform many of the same tests to diagnose Wilms tumors, germ cell tumors and other genitourinary cancers. Tests include:
- Blood tests: Tests may be done to measure blood cell counts or certain protein or hormone levels that may be elevated in some forms of germ cell tumors.
- Urine tests: A urinalysis helps gauge kidney function.
- Pediatric CT (computed tomography): This test creates images that helps doctors detect tumors inside the kidney, reproductive organs, pelvis and other parts of the body.
- Pediatric magnetic resonance imaging (MRI): This scan produces detailed 3D images of organs and surrounding soft tissues. It can help determine whether the cancer has spread.
- Pediatric ultrasound (sonogram): This scan produces 3D images of organs. It can detect tumors in the bladder, kidneys, testicles, ovaries and other organs.
What are Pediatric Genitourinary Cancer treatments?
With proper treatment, the survival rate for children with genitourinary cancers is as high as 90%. Each child has a dedicated care team that includes urologists, pathologists, general surgeons and radiologists who meet monthly to review your child’s treatment plan and progress. Treatment may involve a combination of approaches including:
Your child may receive chemotherapy before surgery to shrink the tumor (called neoadjuvant chemo) or after surgery to eliminate lingering cancer cells.
We specialize in advanced surgical procedures to treat these cancers. When possible, we use minimally invasive techniques that require smaller incisions. As a result, your child experiences less pain and scarring and recovers faster.
A small number of children may require radiation therapy as part of their initial therapy or if the cancer spreads or comes back (recurrence).
Providers who practice at Children's Health℠ see a large number of children with genitourinary cancers every year. Families seek us out for our depth of experience treating these diseases and our high treatment success rates.
Additional programs and support
In addition to comprehensive treatments, our patients have access to the largest childhood cancer survivor program, ACE, in North Texas, featuring lifelong care to help your child stay healthy long-term. We’re also home to a cancer genetics program for children who have a family history of genitourinary cancers or a genetic condition that increases cancer risk.
Genitourinary Cancer Doctors and Providers
Children’s Health brings together top cancer specialists and other providers to meet all of your child’s needs. We use a team approach to evaluate your child, understand their needs and develop a custom treatment plan.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is a GU oncologist?
Genitourinary cancer requires care from oncologists (cancer doctors) who specialize in treating cancers that affect the kidney, bladder, ovaries, testicles and other organs.
What organs are included in the genitourinary system?
The genitourinary system includes the kidneys, ureters, bladder, urethra and reproductive organs.
Does Children’s Health conduct genitourinary cancer research?
Yes. Through our academic affiliation with UT Southwestern Medical Center, doctors are dedicated to finding new ways to treat genitourinary cancer in children. With your family’s permission, we save and bank tissue from your child’s tumor. We use this tissue to conduct research that helps us gain knowledge about the disease and develop new therapies. Our efforts don’t stop there. We also participate in national clinical trials, which may give your child the chance to try promising treatments before they’re widely available.