Pediatric Kidney Tumors

Pediatric Kidney Tumors



Kidney tumors are rare in children, with Wilms tumor (nephroblastoma), occurring most often. Most children with Wilms tumors can be cured, but with Wilms tumors and other rare kidney tumors, it is important to preserve as much of the child’s renal function as possible. Because these cancers are so rare, children who have them should be cared for by a multidisciplinary team of pediatric specialists.


  • Wilms tumor, which is the most common type and can be bilateral. Wilms tumors can metastasize to the lungs and liver. The tumors typically develop in children age 3 to 4 years old.;
  • Cystic partially differentiated nephroblastoma, an uncommon form of Wilms tumor comprising cysts.
  • Clear cell carcinoma, which can spread from the kidney to the lung, brain, bone or soft tissue.
  • Renal cell carcinoma, which is rare in children younger than age 15, but occurs more often in adolescents and young adults age 15 to 19. It can metastasize easily to the lungs, bones and liver.
  • Congenital mesoblastic nephroma, the most common kidney tumor of newborns and infants, particularly boys. It is highly curable and one type can be seen on fetal ultrasound.
  • Rhabdoid tumor of the kidney, which occurs primarily in infants and younger children. The aggressive tumor can metastasize to a child’s lung and brains and often is advanced when diagnosed.
  • Anaplastic sarcoma of the kidney, a rare sarcoma that occurs in children or adolescents younger than age 15. It can spread to the lungs, liver and bones.

Risk Factors

As we learn more about genetic predisposition to kidney tumors, we can better predict and screen for risk of renal cancer among children and adolescents. Certain genetic syndromes predispose children to Wilms tumors and renal cell carcinoma in particular.  Knowing that a child is at high risk for kidney tumors can help detect the cancer early and help preserve kidney function.


Symptoms can vary, but many children have a swollen abdomen or large mass in the abdomen. Pain, blood in the urine and unexplained fever are other signs of kidney tumors.

Test and Diagnosis

Abdominal imaging with ultrasonography, radiography and computed tomography (CT) can help detect kidney tumors. A complete blood count, liver or renal function tests and urinalysis can aid in differential diagnosis. Any child with a renal mass should be assessed for possible associated syndromes.


Treatment of Wilms tumors is complex, requiring involvement of a multidisciplinary team of pediatric subspecialists. At Children’s, our specialists have experience treating rare childhood cancers. Our pediatric surgeons and urologists participate in important clinical trials and our oncology and urology departments are among the 10 consistently ranked as top pediatric programs in the country by U.S. News and World Report.

Because kidney tumors are rare, children should be considered for enrollment in a clinical trial when possible. Treatment may include nephrectomy, radiation therapy, chemotherapy and biologic therapy as appropriate. Children with advanced disease may require high-dose chemotherapy with a stem cell transplant or a kidney transplant.

Our surgeons have performed more than 350 kidney transplants since the program began in 1979. The Gill’s Stem Cell Transplant Program is staffed by experienced specialists who know how to care for children with complex diseases in our 12-bed, state-of-the-art facility. And once we treat your patient with a kidney tumor, we’ll continue to consult with you on follow-up care.

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