What is neuroblastoma?
Neuroblastoma is a type of cancer that grows in immature nerve cells in various parts of the body. Neuroblastoma is the most common cancer in babies, and one of the most common in young children.
Neuroblastoma usually starts in the adrenal glands Overview of the Adrenal Glands Glands make and release hormones. Hormones are chemicals that stimulate other cells or tissues into action. Because hormones are in your blood, they travel throughout your body. They can affect... read more (located above the kidneys) or in the nerves that run next to the spine in the chest or belly
The cancer can start to develop even before birth
Neuroblastoma often spreads to other parts of the body, such as the bones, skin, and spinal cord
Children have the best outcome if they are young and their cancer hasn't spread
Doctors treat neuroblastoma with surgery, chemotherapy, and sometimes radiation therapy
What causes neuroblastoma?
Most of the time, doctors don't know why children develop a neuroblastoma. Rarely, a baby inherits an abnormal gene that causes neuroblastoma.
What are the symptoms of neuroblastoma?
The symptoms of neuroblastoma depend on where the cancer starts and if it has spread.
If neuroblastoma starts in your child's belly, symptoms include:
A large belly
Feeling of being full
If neuroblastoma starts in your child's chest, symptoms include:
Your child may have other symptoms if the neuroblastoma has spread to other parts of the body:
Bones: Pain in the bones, weakness and tiredness, pale skin, bruising
Skin: Lumps on the skin
Spinal cord: Weak arms and/or legs
Many of these are also the symptoms of more common health problems in children.
How can doctors tell if my child has neuroblastoma?
Sometimes doctors suspect neuroblastoma after seeing a tumor on an ultrasound during pregnancy. Sometimes doctors feel a lump in your child's belly during a doctor visit. To know for sure if your child has neuroblastoma, doctors will:
Do a CT scan or MRI of the belly
Take a tissue sample of the tumor to look at under a microscope (called a biopsy)
Do urine tests to look for substances produced by the tumor
If your child has neuroblastoma, doctors will do more tests to see if the cancer has spread, including:
X-rays of all your child's bones
CT scan or MRI of other parts of the body
Taking a sample of bone marrow (bone marrow biopsy Bone Marrow Examination Red blood cells, most white blood cells, and platelets are produced in the bone marrow, the soft fatty tissue inside bone cavities. Sometimes a sample of bone marrow must be examined to determine... read more ) to look for cancer
How do doctors treat neuroblastoma?
Doctors usually do:
Surgery to remove the tumor
If the neuroblastoma has characteristics that make it especially dangerous, doctors may also do:
Immunotherapy Immunotherapy for Cancer Immunotherapy is a cancer treatment that uses your own immune system to fight your cancer. Your immune system consists of cells, tissues, and organs that protect your body from illness and infection... read more (treatment that stimulates your child's immune system to fight cancer)