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Neuroblastoma in Children: Symptoms and Stages

Neuroblastoma Definition and Facts

Patient Comments
  • Neuroblastoma is a disease in which malignant (cancer) cells form in neuroblasts (immature nerve tissue) in the adrenal gland, neck, chest, or spinal cord.
  • Neuroblastoma is sometimes caused by a gene mutation (change) passed from the parent to the child.
  • Signs and symptoms of neuroblastoma include bone pain and a lump in the abdomen, neck, or chest.
  • Tests that examine many different body tissues and fluids are used to detect (find) and diagnose neuroblastoma.
  • A biopsy is done to diagnose neuroblastoma.
  • Certain factors affect prognosis (chance of recovery) and treatment options.

What Is Neuroblastoma?

Neuroblastoma is a disease in which malignant (cancer) cells form in neuroblasts (immature nerve tissue) in the adrenal gland, neck, chest, or spinal cord.

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 nerve tissue in the neck, chest, abdomen or pelvis.

Neuroblastoma most often begins in infancy and may be diagnosed in the first month of life. It is found when the tumor begins to grow and cause signs or 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, and liver. In infants, it also spreads to the skin

What Are the Signs and Symptoms of Neuroblastoma?

Patient Comments

The most common signs and symptoms of neuroblastoma are caused by the tumor 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:

  • Lump in the abdomen, neck, or chest.
  • Bulging eyes.
  • Dark circles around the eyes ("black eyes").
  • Bone pain.
  • Swollen stomach and trouble breathing (in infants).
  • Painless, bluish lumps under the skin (in infants).
  • Weakness or paralysis (loss of ability to move a body part).

Less common signs and symptoms of neuroblastoma include the following:

  • Fever.
  • Shortness of breath.
  • Feeling tired.
  • Easy bruising or bleeding.
  • Petechiae (flat, pinpoint spots under the skin caused by bleeding).
  • High blood pressure.
  • Severe watery diarrhea.
  • Horner syndrome (droopy eyelid, smaller pupil, and less sweating on one side of the face).
  • Jerky muscle movements.
  • Uncontrolled eye movements.

What Is the Cause of Neuroblastoma?

Neuroblastoma is sometimes caused by a gene mutation (change) passed from the parent to the child.

Gene mutations that increase the risk of neuroblastoma are sometimes inherited (passed from the parent to the child). In children with a gene mutation, neuroblastoma usually occurs at a younger age and more than one tumor may form in the adrenal glands.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 10/9/2017

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Neuroblastoma in Children - Stages

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