Treatment Option Overview
Wilms tumor and other childhood kidney tumors are usually treated with nephrectomy (surgery to remove the whole kidney). Nearby lymph nodes may also be removed.
If cancer is found in both kidneys, surgery may include a partial nephrectomy (removal of the cancer in the kidney and a small amount of normal tissue around it). Partial nephrectomy is done to keep the kidney working.
Chemotherapy may be given before surgery to make the tumor smaller so less kidney tissue needs to be removed and there are fewer problems after surgery. This is called neoadjuvant chemotherapy.
Even if the doctor removes all the cancer that can be seen at the time of the surgery, some patients may be given chemotherapy or radiation therapy after surgery to kill any cancer cells that are left. Treatment given after the surgery, to lower the risk that the cancer will come back, is called adjuvant therapy. Sometimes, a second-look surgery is done to see if cancer remains after chemotherapy or radiation therapy.
Radiation therapy is a cancer treatment that uses high-energy x-rays or other types of radiation to kill cancer cells or keep them from growing. There are two types of radiation therapy. External radiation therapy uses a machine outside the body to send radiation toward the cancer. Internal radiation therapy uses a radioactive substance sealed in needles, seeds, wires, or catheters that are placed directly into or near the cancer. The way the radiation therapy is given depends on the type and stage of the cancer being treated and whether a biopsy was done before surgery to remove the tumor.
Chemotherapy is a cancer treatment that uses drugs to stop the growth of cancer cells, either by killing the cells or by stopping them from dividing. When chemotherapy is taken by mouth or injected into a vein or muscle, the drugs enter the bloodstream and can reach cancer cells throughout the body (systemic chemotherapy). When chemotherapy is placed directly into the cerebrospinal fluid, an organ, or a body cavity such as the abdomen, the drugs mainly affect cancer cells in those areas (regional chemotherapy). The way the chemotherapy is given depends on the type and stage of the cancer being treated.