Symptoms and Signs of Neuroblastoma in Children

Medical Author:
Medically Reviewed on 9/17/2021

Doctor's Notes on Neuroblastoma in Children

Neuroblastoma is a type of cancer that occurs when malignant cells form in neuroblasts (immature nerve tissue) in the adrenal gland, neck, chest, or spinal cord. Neuroblastoma often begins in infancy and is often found during the first month of life when the tumor begins to grow and cause symptoms. In some cases the tumor forms before birth and is found during a fetal ultrasound. By the time neuroblastoma is diagnosed, the cancer has usually metastasized (spread). 

Symptoms of neuroblastoma include:

  • a lump in the abdomen, neck, or chest,
  • bulging eyes,
  • dark circles around the eyes,
  • bone pain,
  • swollen stomach and trouble breathing (in infants),
  • painless, bluish lumps under the skin (in infants),
  • weakness, or
  • paralysis.

Less common symptoms of neuroblastoma include:

  • fever,
  • shortness of breath, 
  • tiredness,
  • 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, and
  • uncontrolled eye movements.

What Is the Treatment for Neuroblastoma in Children?

The treatment for neuroblastoma in children depends on many factors, including the child’s age and risk group at the time of diagnosis, the extent of spread of the tumor, and specific characteristics of the tumor that reveal its underlying biology (favorable or unfavorable).

Treatment options for neuroblastoma in children include:

  • Observation
  • Surgery 
  • Radiation therapy
  • Iodine 131-MIBG therapy
  • Chemotherapy 
  • High-dose chemotherapy and radiation therapy with stem cell rescue
  • Targeted therapy
  • Immunotherapy

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Kasper, D.L., et al., eds. Harrison's Principles of Internal Medicine, 19th Ed. United States: McGraw-Hill Education, 2015.