Cancers and Tumors

Kidney Tumor Treatment

Your child can get the very latest treatments for kidney tumors at Seattle Children's.

The most common treatments are surgery and chemotherapy. Your child's doctor and healthcare team will suggest a treatment plan based on your child's unique needs.

Most children with Wilms tumor do well with treatment. About 90% of children with the most common form of Wilms tumor are free of cancer five years after treatment, which means we consider them cured.

We keep working with other researchers to create treatments that work better, especially for the rarer types of kidney tumors

Kidney Tumor Treatment Options


Surgery is often the first treatment a child has for a kidney tumor. Most children with Wilms tumor have their kidney with cancer taken out after the cancer is diagnosed.

Sometimes doctors also remove these nearby structures: the adrenal gland (which sits on top of the kidney), the tube from the kidney to the bladder (ureter) and the fat around the kidney.

Doctors may also remove lymph nodes near the kidney. Lymph vessels pick up a watery fluid call lymph from around the body, filter it through lymph nodes, and return it to the bloodstream. Sometimes the lymph system picks up cancer cells traveling in the fluid near a tumor.

During surgery, doctors may check other sites for cancer, too, such as the liver and the other kidney. If they find any tissue that appears to have cancer, they may remove all that tissue or just some of it for a biopsy.

Sometimes doctors cannot remove the whole tumor. It may be too large, or the cancer cells may have invaded nearby tissue. Instead, doctors take a small sample of tumor cells for a biopsy. Then they often remove the whole tumor later after they shrink it with chemotherapy.


Chemotherapy means giving medicines that go throughout your child's body to kill cancer cells.

Your child's doctors may suggest chemotherapy to help shrink the kidney tumor or to help kill cancer cells that may be elsewhere in your child's body. Children can get these medicines through a vein. These medicines spread around the body through the bloodstream.

For the most common type of Wilms tumor, doctors use two or three chemotherapy medicines.

Our patients receive chemotherapy at our hospital's main campus in Seattle. Most children get chemotherapy without staying the night at the hospital (as outpatients).


Radiation uses high-energy X-rays to kill cancer cells.

A machine sends a dose of radiation through the outer structures, such as the skin and muscles, into deeper parts of the body. The rays are directed at the place where doctors know or suspect cancer remains. Doctors most often use this for patients with stage III or stage IV Wilms tumor.

Most times, doctors give radiation for kidney tumors after surgery and before chemotherapy.

Radiation can cause unpleasant side effects, such as nausea, sore throat or mild skin burning, or long-term problems, such as infertility or second cancers. Radiation also can affect the way a child develops.

Researchers are looking for ways to give it in smaller doses or to smaller areas or to use other treatments instead.

Our patients receive radiation therapy through our partner UW Medicine .

Learn more about Children's Radiation Therapy Service .

New Treatments for Wilms Tumor and Other Kidney Tumors

Researchers are doing studies to find more effective treatments for children with Wilms tumor and other less common forms of kidney tumors.

Some studies are done to learn about the best mixes of chemotherapy medicines and ways to use radiation with better results. Others are looking for new types of cancer treatments.

The main goals are to improve cure rates and reduce the risk of long-term effects from the disease and treatment.

Also, in the laboratory, researchers are trying to find features of Wilms tumors that may be linked with the need for more or less treatment.

In the future they may be able to test a child's tumor to find out what level of treatment is the best match.

Children's takes part in childhood kidney tumor research, as a member of the Children's Oncology Group (COG) and in other ways. COG conducts studies on many forms of childhood cancer.

Members aim to better understand how the disease works, develop new treatment programs and reduce future effects of the disease and treatments.

Also, Children's is a member of a consortium within COG to create new medicines. As part of a clinical trial , we may be able to give new medicines to patients whose cancer does not respond to treatment or comes back after treatment.

Your child's doctor will talk with you in detail about any new treatment that might be a match for your child. Then you can decide whether you want to try that option.

We also take part in a study sponsored by the National Wilms Tumor Study that looks at the genetics of Wilms tumor and the long-term outcomes for children who have had successful treatment.

Read more about research at Children's and about follow-up after treatment ends .