Major Forms of Cancer - Cancer of the kidney

Cancer of the kidneys is most likely to occur in young children or in adults over the age of 40. The most common form of kidney cancer in children is known as Wilms' tumor . In adults, kidney cancer is usually in the form of a growth called Grawitz's tumor , or hypernephroma , a malignant growth that occurs chiefly among men.

Wilms' Tumor

Wilms' tumor, also called nephroblastoma , accounts for perhaps 25 percent of all cancers in children. About 90 percent of the cases develop before the age of seven; it has been diagnosed in infants less than five months old.

Symptoms and Detection

The symptoms can include fever, abdominal pain, weight loss, lack of appetite, blood in the urine, and an abdominal mass that may grow quickly to enormous size. The growth may be accompanied by symptoms of hypertension.

Examination of the patient may show the tumor to be on either the left or the right kidney. In a small percentage of the cases both kidneys are affected. A biopsy usually is performed in order to verify the presence of cancer cells in the growth.

Therapy and Causes

Treatment is most effective when the disease is diagnosed before the age of two. Surgery, radiation, and chemotherapy may be employed. The choice of chemotherapeutic agents may be varied as follow-up examinations reveal side effects or tumor resistance to one of the previously administered medications.

The five-year survival rate for victims of Wilms' tumor is about 65 percent when surgery and other measures are employed at an early stage. If not controlled, the cancer cells from Wilms' tumor tend to spread by metastasis to the lungs, liver, and other organs.

Wilms' tumor is believed to be congenital in nature. Studies of the tumor cells indicate that it may develop from embryonic kidney tissue that fails to evolve as a normal part of that organ.

Grawitz's Tumor

In about half of the cases of Grawitz's tumor, the common adult kidney cancer, the disease manifests itself through a combination of three symptoms: abdominal mass, pain in the area of the kidneys, and blood in the urine. In the other half of the cases, the cancer has metastasized and is found in the brain, lung, liver, or bone.


The physician may get important information about the seriousness of the tumor through laboratory studies of blood and urine samples; these can indicate the presence of substances that appear in body fluids when cancer cells are active.

Information can also be obtained by angiogram studies. An angiogram is an X-ray picture of an organ that has been injected with a dye to make the blood vessels, which carry the dye, markedly visible. A kidney angiogram shows different dye patterns for a normal organ, a kidney with a cyst, or a kidney with a tumor. The diagnosis usually is confirmed by biopsy or surgical exploration.

Therapy and Causes

Surgery and radiation treatment are the usual forms of therapy for adult kidney tumors, and the chances of ten-year survival, even after removal of a cancerous kidney, are fairly good. Causes of adult kidney tumors remain largely unknown, but they have been thought to be associated with other disorders, such as infections or the presence of kidney stones.

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