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Cancer Health Center

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Wilms Tumor and Other Childhood Kidney Tumors Treatment (PDQ®): Treatment - Patient Information [NCI] - Stages of Wilms Tumor

Wilms tumors are staged during surgery and with imaging tests.

The process used to find out if cancer has spread outside of the kidney to other parts of the body is called staging. The information gathered from the staging process determines the stage of the disease. It is important to know the stage in order to plan treatment. The doctor will use results of the diagnostic and staging tests to help find out the stage of the disease.

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The following tests may be done to see if cancer has spread to other places in the body:

  • Lymph nodebiopsy: A surgical procedure in which lymph nodes in the abdomen are removed and a sample of tissue is checked under a microscope for signs of cancer. This procedure is also called lymphadenectomy or lymph node dissection.
  • Liver function test: A procedure in which a blood sample is checked to measure the amounts of certain substances released into the blood by the liver. A higher than normal amount of a substance can be a sign that the liver is not working as it should.
  • X-ray of the chest and bones: An x-ray is a type of energy beam that can go through the body and onto film, making a picture of areas inside the body, such as the chest.
  • CT scan (CAT scan): A procedure that makes a series of detailed pictures of areas inside the body, such as the abdomen, pelvis, chest, and brain, taken from different angles. The pictures are made by a computer linked to an x-ray machine. A dye may be injected into a vein or swallowed to help the organs or tissues show up more clearly. This procedure is also called computed tomography, computerized tomography, or computerized axial tomography.
  • PET-CT scan: A procedure that combines the pictures from a positron emission tomography (PET) scan and a computed tomography (CT) scan. The PET and CT scans are done at the same time on the same machine. The pictures from both scans are combined to make a more detailed picture than either test would make by itself. A PET scan is a procedure to find malignant tumor cells in the body. A small amount of radioactive glucose (sugar) is injected into a vein. The PET scanner rotates around the body and makes a picture of where glucose is being used in the body. Malignant tumor cells show up brighter in the picture because they are more active and take up more glucose than normal cells do.
  • MRI (magnetic resonance imaging): A procedure that uses a magnet, radio waves, and a computer to make a series of detailed pictures of areas inside the body, such as the abdomen, pelvis, and brain. This procedure is also called nuclear magnetic resonance imaging (NMRI).
  • Bone scan: A procedure to check if there are rapidly dividing cells, such as cancer cells, in the bone. A very small amount of radioactive material is injected into a vein and travels through the bloodstream. The radioactive material collects in the bones with cancer and is detected by a scanner.
  • Ultrasound exam: A procedure in which high-energy sound waves (ultrasound) are bounced off internal tissues or organs and make echoes. The echoes form a picture of body tissues called a sonogram. An ultrasound of the major heart vessels is done to stage Wilms tumor.
  • Cystoscopy: A procedure to look inside the bladder and urethra to check for abnormal areas. A cystoscope is inserted through the urethra into the bladder. A cystoscope is a thin, tube-like instrument with a light and a lens for viewing. It may also have a tool to remove tissue samples, which are checked under a microscope for signs of cancer.
  • Ureteroscopy: A procedure to look inside the kidney and ureter to check for abnormal areas, using a ureteroscope. A ureteroscope is a thin, tube-like instrument with a light and a lens for viewing. It may also have a tool to remove tissue samples, which are checked under a microscope for signs of cancer. The ureteroscope is passed through the urethra into the bladder, ureter, and renal pelvis (part of the kidney that collects, holds, and drains urine).
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