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  • Definition

    Neuroblastoma is a rare cancer that usually occurs in children under 5 years of age. The tumor is often found during infancy and may begin before birth. It typically develops in nerve tissue near the adrenal glands just above the kidneys. However, some tumors may develop in the abdomen, chest, neck, or spinal cord.
    Like most cancers, neuroblastoma can eventually spread to other parts of the body. Early detection and treatment may prevent the spread of cancer.
    Adrenal Glands
    Nucleus factsheet image
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  • Causes

    It is not known exactly why the tumor develops. A genetic mutation may be involved.
  • Risk Factors

    Neuroblastoma affects males slightly more often than females. Factors that increase the risk of neuroblastoma include:
  • Symptoms

    Symptoms will depend on the location of the tumor and whether the cancer has spread. Some symptoms may include:
    • Lump anywhere on the body, usually the chest, neck, or abdomen
    • Abdominal pain—swollen abdomen in infants
    • Pain such back or bone pain that is not explained
    • Bowel changes and difficulty urinating
    • Trouble breathing or coughing
    • Weakness or paralysis
    • Problems with eyelids and pupils
    • Easy bruising or bleeding
    • Weight loss
    • Fever
    • Fatigue
    • Sudden involuntary jerking of muscles and random eye movements
  • Diagnosis

    You will be asked about your child’s symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done. Tests will depend on the suspected location of the tumor.
    Your child's bodily fluids and tissues may be tested. This can be done with:
    Images may be taken of your child's bodily structures. This can be done with:
    The cancer can spread to the liver, lungs, and bones. Early detection is key to a good prognosis.
  • Treatment

    Talk with the doctor about the best treatment plan for your child. Treatment options include:
    If possible, surgery may be done to remove the tumor.
    Chemotherapy and Radiation Therapy
    Chemotherapy is the use of drugs to kill cancer cells. The drugs enter the bloodstream and travel through the body, killing mostly cancer cells. With radiation therapy , radiation is directed at the tumor to kill the cancer cells. Radiation therapy may be used if the cancer has spread.
    Bone Marrow Transplantation
    During this type of transplant , bone marrow is removed, treated, and frozen. Large doses of chemotherapy and/or radiation therapy are applied to kill the cancer cells. After treatment, the bone marrow is replaced via a vein. Transplanted bone marrow may be your child’s own bone marrow that was treated or it may be marrow from a healthy donor.
    Some neuroblastomas go away on their own. It is not known why this happens.
  • Prevention

    Since the exact cause is unknown, there is no way to prevent this type of tumor from forming.

    National Cancer Institute

    The Neuroblastoma Children’s Cancer Society


    Canadian Cancer Society

    Childhood Cancer Foundation


    Neuroblastoma. Kids Health—Nemours Foundation website. Available at: Updated September 2014. Accessed June 15, 2015.

    Neuroblastoma. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: Updated March 16, 2015. Accessed June 15, 2015.

    Neuroblastoma. National Cancer Institute website. Available at: Accessed June 15, 2015.

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