Kidney Tumors in Children

Renal tumors or masses are abnormal growths that begin in the kidney. There are different types of tumors or growths, which may be benign (noncancerous) or malignant (cancerous).

Kidney tumors are relatively rare in children. The most common type is Wilms tumor or nephroblastoma. It occurs in young children, usually from 1 to 8 years of age. Wilms tumors can appear on one or both (bilateral) kidneys. Some consist of cysts (cystic nephroblastoma). Tumors vary in size and may grow slowly or quickly. Localized tumors are those that haven’t spread (metastasized) to other tissues or organs.

All kidney tumors require multispecialty diagnosis and care. The pediatric urologists, nephrologists (kidney doctors) and cancer care specialists at Penn State Health work together to evaluate and treat renal tumors in children of all ages. Our goal is to treat tumors while sparing as much healthy kidney tissue and function as possible.

Causes of Pediatric Renal Tumors

The cause of kidney tumors isn’t always known. Risks tend to increase with age and may be affected by lifestyle factors. Genetic or inherited conditions may increase the chance of developing renal tumors in children.

Symptoms, Diagnosis and Outlook

Children don’t always have symptoms of early-stage kidney tumors. Many tumors are discovered during an abdominal imaging test for other, unrelated conditions.

At later stages, symptoms of kidney tumors may include:

  • Blood in urine
  • Constipation
  • Fatigue
  • Fever
  • High blood pressure
  • Loss of appetite, excessive thirst and/or vomiting
  • Lump or swelling in belly, lower back or side of waist
  • Night sweats
  • Pain in abdomen or lower back
  • Unexplained weight loss

Evaluation and Treatment of Kidney Tumors

Testing varies depending on a child’s age, symptoms, health history and condition, including the type and size of tumor. Diagnosis may include:

  • Blood and urine samples and lab testing, including urinalysis
  • Blood pressure testing
  • GFR – a blood test for kidney function
  • Imaging tests such as X-ray, ultrasound, CT and MRI
  • Liver and kidney function tests
  • Physical exam and medical history

Your child’s care team will collaborate to offer individualized treatment recommendations. If a tumor is less than 4 centimeters (1.5 inches), your doctor may monitor it closely for changes before considering other options.

Treatment options can range from medical therapies to radiation and surgery, including traditional open surgery or other less invasive options. Your child’s doctor may discuss other approaches such as thermal ablation (heating or freezing the tumor).

The tumor-care medical team at Penn State Health may include the following pediatric specialists:

  • Urologist (surgeon who specializes in treating urinary system conditions)
  • Nephrologist (kidney specialist)
  • Oncologist (cancer specialist)
  • Radiation oncologist (specialist in radiation therapy for tumors)
  • Oncology nurse
  • Social worker
  • Other specialists and practitioners

Your doctor may refer you to a doctor at Penn State Health who will guide your treatment and consult with other specialists as needed. You can also contact us to schedule a consultation.

Why Choose Penn State Health for Pediatric Urology Care

Our pediatric urology team treats conditions that involve the urinary tract, bladder, kidneys and sex organs (genitalia). We use the latest technology and treatments to help your child. Our physicians and teams offer high-level care across specialties with sensitivity to the unique conditions and concerns of children.

Pediatric Expertise Across Specialties

The pediatric surgeons at Penn State Health have multispecialty training and experience. Doctors are skilled in performing the most intricate and complex procedures in infants, children and adolescents. Areas of expertise include:

  • Dedicated cross-specialty team of caring pediatric experts before, during and after surgery or other treatments and procedures
  • Minimally invasive surgery (sophisticated instruments and surgical procedures with smaller incisions)
  • Neonatal surgery (premature babies and newborns)
  • Pediatric oncology (cancer care)
  • Pediatric surgical innovation (software and device development)
  • Prenatal diagnosis and treatment (for problems with the baby’s development during pregnancy)

Penn State Health Children’s Hospital: Leading the Way

At Penn State Health, children are cared for by teams that are nationally known for pediatric excellence across medical specialties and subspecialties. Penn State Health Children’s Hospital is:

  • Recognized by the American College of Surgeons (ACS) for exceptional surgical care. Our hospital is one of eight in the nation and the only Level 1 Children’s Surgery Center in Pennsylvania as part of the ACS Children’s Surgery Verification Program.
  • Routinely ranked among the best children’s hospitals in the nation because of our focus on patient care, safety and research. U.S. News & World Report has recognized Penn State Children’s Hospital specialties with top rankings.

Our Research and Clinical Trials Drive Better Care

The pediatric specialists at Penn State Health are leaders in clinical science research. We welcome interested volunteers to consider participating in clinical trials. These studies help our scientists:

  • Improve diagnostic techniques
  • Develop better treatments
  • Collaborate with other researchers to advance care

Learn more about Penn State Health clinical trials.

Support Groups

Support groups provide children and their families an opportunity to connect with others in similar situations. Learn more about the support groups offered at Penn State Health Children’s Hospital.

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