Neuroblastoma -- Child

Neuroblastoma is a rare, cancer that usually occurs in children under age five. 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.

  • Causes

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

  • Definition

    Neuroblastoma is a rare, cancer that usually occurs in children under age five. 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
    Copyright © Nucleus Medical Media, Inc.

  • Diagnosis

    The doctor will ask about your child’s symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done. Tests will depend on the suspected location of the tumor. Tests may include:

    • Urine and blood tests
    • Ultrasound—to create images of structures in the body
    • MRI scan
      —to create images of structures in the body
    • CT scan
      —to create images of structures in the body
    • Myelogram—to create images of the spinal cord
    • X-ray
      —to create images of structures in the body
    • Biopsy
      of tumor—a piece of the tumor is removed and examined
    • Bone marrow biopsy
      —a sample of bone marrow is removed and examined

    The cancer can spread to the liver, lungs, and bones. Early detection is key to a good prognosis.

  • Prevention

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

  • Risk Factors

    Factors that increase the risk of neuroblastoma include:

    • Gender: males slightly more affected than females

    • Certain conditions such as
      Turner syndrome
      ,
      Hirschsprung's disease
      ,
      Fetal alcohol syndrome
      ,
      Neurofibromatosis type 1
      ,
      DiGeorge syndrome
      , Recklinghausen disease, Beckwith-Wiedemann syndrome
    • Exposure to certain medicines and substances such as diuretics, tranquilizers, phenytoin, alcohol, or tobacco during pregnancy

  • 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 eyelid and pupil
    • Easy bruising or bleeding
    • Weight loss
    • General ill feeling (fever, fatigue, shortness of breath)
    • Sudden involuntary jerking of muscles and random eye movements

    These symptoms may be caused by another condition. If your child has any of these, talk to the doctor right away.

  • Treatment

    Talk with the doctor about the best treatment plan for your child. Treatment options include: