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Cancer that arises in immature nerve cells and affects mostly infants and children.
Neuroblastoma often begins in the nerve tissue of the adrenal glands. There are two adrenal glands, one on top of each kidney in the back of the upper abdomen. The adrenal glands make important hormones that help control heart rate, blood pressure, blood sugar, and the way the body reacts to stress. Neuroblastoma may also begin in the abdomen, in the chest, in nerve tissue near the spine in the neck, or in the spinal cord.
Anatomy of the female urinary system showing the kidneys, adrenal glands, ureters, bladder, and urethra. Urine is made in the renal tubules and collects in the renal pelvis of each kidney. The urine flows from the kidneys through the ureters to the bladder. The urine is stored in the bladder until it leaves the body through the urethra.
Neuroblastoma most often begins during early childhood, usually in children younger than 5 years of age. It is found when the tumour begins to grow and cause symptoms. Sometimes it forms before birth and is found during a fetal ultrasound.
By the time neuroblastoma is diagnosed, the cancer has usually metastasized (spread). Neuroblastoma spreads most often to the lymph nodes, bones, bone marrow, liver, and in infants, skin.
Ganglioneuroblastoma is an intermediate tumour that arises from nerve tissues. An intermediate tumour is one that is between benign (slow-growing and unlikely to spread) and malignant (fast-growing, aggressive, and likely to spread).
This is a very rare tumour that occurs in children. tumours of the nervous system have different degrees of differentiation. The degree of differentiation is based on how the tumour cells look under the microscope. It can predict whether or not they are likely to spread. Benign tumours are less likely to spread. Malignant tumours are aggressive, grow quickly, and often spread. A ganglioneuroma is a benign tumour. A neuroblastoma (occurring in children over 1 year old) is usually malignant.A ganglioneuroblastoma may be only in one area or it may be widespread, but it is usually less aggressive than a neuroblastoma. The cause is unknown.
Most commonly, a lump can be felt in the abdomen.
Exams and Tests
The health care provider may do the following tests:
Depending on the type of tumour, treatment can involve surgery, and possibly chemotherapy and radiation therapy.Because these tumours are rare, they should be treated in a specialized center by experts who have experience with them.
The outlook depends on how far the tumour has spread, and whether some areas of the tumour contain more aggressive cancer cells.
Complications that may result include:
Neuroblastoma is sometimes inherited (passed from the parent to the child). Neuroblastoma that is inherited usually occurs at a younger age than neuroblastoma that is not inherited. In inherited neuroblastoma, more than one tumour may form in the adrenal medulla.
Possible signs and symptoms of neuroblastoma include bone pain and a lump in the abdomen, neck, or chest.
The most common signs and symptoms of neuroblastoma are caused by the tumour pressing on nearby tissues as it grows or by cancer spreading to the bone. These and other signs and symptoms may be caused by neuroblastoma or by other conditions.
Check with your child’s doctor if your child has any of the following:
Less common signs and symptoms of neuroblastoma include the following:
The following tests and procedures may be used:
Cells and tissues are removed during a biopsy so they can be viewed under a microscope by a pathologist to check for signs of cancer. The way the biopsy is done depends on where the tumour is in the body. Sometimes the whole tumour is removed at the same time the biopsy is done.
The following tests may be done on the tissue that is removed:
The prognosis (chance of recovery) and treatment options depend on the following:
Prognosis and treatment options for neuroblastoma are also affected by tumour biology, which includes:
The tumour biology is said to be favorable or unfavorable, depending on these factors. A favorable tumour biology means there is a better chance of recovery.
In some infants, neuroblastoma may disappear without treatment. The infant is closely watched for symptoms of neuroblastoma. If symptoms occur, treatment may be needed.
For more information on Neuroblastoma click here
This link is to the National Cancer Institute (NCI) cancer website in the United States. There may be references to drugs and clinical trials that are not available here in Australia.
Page last updated: 06/05/2020