Virginia Commonwealth University

VCU Massey Cancer Center

Diagnosis

How is Wilms tumor diagnosed?

In addition to a complete medical history and physical examination, diagnostic procedures may include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • Abdominal ultrasound – a diagnostic imaging technique that uses high-frequency sound waves and a computer to create images of blood vessels, tissues and organs; can provide an outline of the kidneys, the tumor and determine if there are problems in the renal or other major veins in the abdomen. It also can determine if there are any lesions or tumors in the opposite kidney.
  • Abdominal computed tomography scan (also called a CT or CAT scan) – a diagnostic imaging procedure that uses a combination of X-rays and computer technology to produce cross-sectional images (often called slices), both horizontally and vertically, of the body. A CT scan shows detailed images of any part of the body, including the bones, muscles, fat and organs. CT scans are more detailed than X-rays. 
  • Magnetic resonance imaging – a diagnostic procedure that uses a combination of large magnets, radio frequencies and a computer to produce detailed images of organs and structures within the body. MRI can determine if there are metastases (spreading), if there are any tumor cells in the lymph nodes and/or if any other organs are involved. Wilms tumors can compress other organs in the area causing effects on their function. 
  • Chest X-ray – a diagnostic test that uses invisible electromagnetic energy beams to produce images of internal tissues, bones and organs onto film. A chest X-ray can determine if there are metastases (spreading) in the lungs. 
  • Blood and urine tests – to evaluate kidney and liver function. 
  • Biopsy – when a sample of tissue is removed and examined under a microscope. A biopsy of the tumor to evaluate cells, extent of disease and diagnosis.
  • Surgical removal of the tumor and kidney (nephrectomy) – surgery may be necessary for a definitive diagnosis and determining the extent of the disease.