Diagnosis

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When your child is diagnosed with cancer, it can feel overwhelming. This phase involves finding out if your child has cancer and determining the type of cancer they have. Children’s cancer can be difficult to diagnose, as many symptoms are similar to those caused by less serious conditions, or injuries. This means that your child may need several tests and medical appointments before you receive confirmation that your child has cancer.

If your doctor thinks your child has a kidney tumour, they may undergo several tests including:

  • medical history and physical exam
  • blood tests
  • urine tests
  • medical imaging, such as
    • X-ray
    • ultrasound
    • computed tomography (CT) scan
    • magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)
    • bone scan
  • biopsy, with tests for genetic changes to help find out how best to treat your child.

Our section, How is cancer diagnosed? explains these tests in more detail.

Staging

Doctors use staging to describe how much the cancer has grown. Some of the tests for a kidney tumour will also help to stage the tumour. Staging is determined by:

  • where the tumour is
  • how big the tumour is
  • if the tumour has spread to other parts of the body.

Your doctor will use this information to determine the best way to treat the disease. Staging will also give your doctor an idea of how well these treatments are likely to work (prognosis).

How doctors assess the stage or extent of disease varies. They often describe five stages for Wilms tumour:

  • Stage I – doctors find a tumour in one kidney, with the outer layer of the kidney intact. The tumour has not spread, and surgery removed it fully.
  • Stage II – the tumour has grown beyond the kidney into nearby tissue or blood vessels. The tumour has not reached the lymph nodes, and surgery removed it fully.
  • Stage III – surgery has not fully removed the tumour, but it has not spread beyond the belly. There might be cancer cells around surgery site’s edges or elsewhere within the belly cavity. Another option is that the tumour may have invaded important tissues nearby (such as a major blood vessel). If this is the case, surgery could not remove it. The cancer might have spread to nearby lymph nodes.
  • Stage IV – the cancer has spread to other organs that are far away from the kidneys. These could include the lungs, liver, brain, bone or distant lymph nodes.
  • Stage V – tumours occur in both kidneys when doctors first diagnose Wilms tumour.