Wilm’s tumour is the most common type of kidney cancer in children, it accounts for about 6-7% of childhood cancers. It can occur in children between infancy and 15 years, but mostly affects young children between the age group of 3 to 4 years. The incidence of this tumour decreases after age 5 and is rare in adults. Most patients are diagnosed by 2-3 years of age and about 75% of cases occur before age 5. The exact cause of this cancer is not known. On-going research on Wilm’s tumour has not been able to establish any association between this cancer and environmental factors either during pregnancy or after a child's birth. Most of the risk factors for Wilm’s tumour such as age, race, and family history cannot be prevented.
Tips for prevention: Currently, there are no known measures that can prevent Wilm’s tumour, unlike many adult cancers that can be prevented or the risk can be reduced with certain lifestyle changes (such as maintaining a healthy weight or quitting smoking). According to experts, the cancer starts in the cells that failed to develop into mature kidney cells in the foetus. Hence, there is not much that can be prevented in Wilm’s tumour.
Screening tests: As the cancer is rare, routine ultrasound, blood tests or other tests for screening of Wilm’s tumour in otherwise healthy children are not practical.
Prevention in children with certain syndromes or birth defects:
Most cases of Wilms tumour develop in healthy children with no known risk factor and only 10% of cases occur in children with known congenital syndromes, which increase the risk of Wilm’s tumour. The three genetic syndromes, which increase the risk of Wilm’s tumour, include the following:
- WAGR syndrome - the abbreviation WAGR denotes the four diseases present in the WAGR syndrome, Wilms tumour, aniridia (absence of the iris; the coloured part of the eye), genitourinary malformations and mental retardation.
- Denys- Drash syndrome.
- Beckwith- Wiedemann syndrome.
Apart from these syndromes, children with birth defects such as hemihypertrophy, cryptorchidism and hypospadia have a higher risk of developing Wilms tumour.
According to experts, children at a higher risk of Wilm’s tumour should be screened every three months until the age of eight (physical exams by a specialist and ultrasound exams); this can help detect the tumours when they are still small and have not yet spread to other organs.
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