Overview

Neuroblastoma is a rare type of cancer that develops from the immature nerve cells. It is commonly found around the adrenal glands (located at the top of the kidneys). Its function is to regulate the body’s metabolism, blood pressure, the body’s response to stress, and other functions at the body. Neuroblastoma could also develop in other organs of the body that have these nerve cells including spinal cord, abdomen, chest, and others. Neuroblastoma usually affects children 5 years old and below. Treatment options usually are surgery, chemotherapy, radiation therapy, bone marrow transplant, and immunotherapy.

Symptoms

Signs and symptoms of neuroblastoma depend on the location of the tumor and the stage of the disease.

Symptoms of neuroblastoma in the abdomen can include:

  • Lump or swelling in the abdomen
  • Abdominal pain
  • Bowel habit changes
  • Leg swelling
  • Loss of appetite

Symptoms of neuroblastoma in the chest can include:

  • Swelling in the face, neck, arms, and upper chest
  • Headache
  • Dizziness
  • Cough or trouble breathing
  • Drooping eye lids

Symptoms of neuroblastoma that spread to other parts of the body can include:

  • Bulging eyes
  • Weakness
  • Inability to move arms or legs
  • Bone pain
  • Unexplained weight loss

If you notice any signs and symptoms of your child, make an appointment with your doctor. Investigation may be recommended as the symptoms are not specific with the cancer.

Causes

The disease usually happens when nerve tissues develop immature cells that become abnormal and form into a tumor. Genetic mutation causes the abnormal cells to continue to grow out of control affect other normal cells.
Causes of genetic mutation have not yet been determined by the specialists, but risk factors have been identified that increase the risk of having a neuroblastoma.

Risk factors

Factors that may increase neuroblastoma risk includes:

  • Age: children age 5 years old and lower have higher risk to develop neuroblastoma.
  • Family History: it is possible to develop the disease if there is a history of cancer within parents or siblings.
  • Congenital defect: children born with birth defects have a higher risk to develop neuroblastoma compare normal birth.