MSK Kids surgeons in New York City are experts in the care of Wilms’ tumor in children. Our surgeons are part of a team that includes oncologists, nurses, and others who care for kids with Wilms’ tumor.
Will my child lose their kidney?
You may be wondering if your child’s whole kidney must be removed. That depends on the stage of the tumor. It also depends on whether your child has a genetic disorder that raises their risk for Wilms’ tumor.
Wilms’ tumor surgery types
Some children with large tumors have chemotherapy before surgery. This shrinks the tumor and makes it easier to remove.
Radical nephrectomy (removing the whole kidney)
If your child has Wilms’ tumor in just 1 kidney and no genetic risk, we may do a nephrectomy (neh-FREK-toh-mee). Your child’s surgeon takes out the whole kidney and nearby tissue. They also may remove the ureter, a tube that carries urine (pee) from the kidney to the bladder.
With a radical nephrectomy, your child’s surgeon may also take out the adrenal gland, fatty tissues, and nearby lymph nodes. The adrenal gland sits on top of the kidney. The goal is to lower the chances of leaving any cancer cells behind.
Your child’s surgeon will leave the other kidney in place.
Partial nephrectomy (removing part of the kidney)
A partial nephrectomy is surgery to remove the part of the kidney with cancer and the tissue around it. This is to make sure we get all the cancer cells. If needed, the lymph nodes also are removed. Some of the kidney remains.
A partial nephrectomy spares the kidney and is used for children with Wilms’ tumor in both kidneys. It’s also useful for kids who have a greater chance of getting cancer in the other kidney.
The goal of kidney-sparing surgery is to help keep the kidney working. It also means there’s no need for dialysis (filtering of the blood using a machine).
Surgery for Wilms’ tumor that has spread
In rare cases, Wilms’ tumor metastasizes (spread) to the lungs. If there’s still cancer in the lung after chemotherapy or radiation therapy, we may do surgery to take out the tumor tissue.
Bilateral nephrectomy (removing both kidneys)
It’s rare that we must take out both kidneys when a child has Wilms’ tumor. When this happens, your child must have dialysis after surgery. A child who has both kidneys removed may be able to have a kidney transplant. This surgery will be done at a hospital other than MSK.
Wilms’ tumor surgery recovery
Your child’s surgeon will let you know how long the surgery may take. They will tell you how long your child may be in the hospital.
There may be some swelling and discomfort around the incision site. Our pain care team makes sure that your child is as comfortable as possible. Your surgeon will tell you when your child can go back to their regular activities.