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Neuroblastoma Treatment

General Information About Neuroblastoma

Neuroblastoma is a disease in which malignant (cancer) cells form in nerve tissue of 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 the abdomen, in the chest, in nerve tissue near the spine in the neck, or in the spinal cord. Anatomy of the female urinary system showing the kidneys, adrenal glands, ureters, bladder, and urethra. Urine is made in the renal tubules and collects in the renal pelvis of each kidney. The urine flows from the kidneys through the ureters to the bladder. The urine is stored in the bladder until it leaves the body through the urethra.
Anatomy of the female urinary system showing the kidneys, adrenal glands, ureters, bladder, and urethra. Urine is made in the renal tubules and collects in the renal pelvis of each kidney. The urine flows from the kidneys through the ureters to the bladder. The urine is stored in the bladder until it leaves the body through the urethra.

Anatomy of the female urinary system showing the kidneys, adrenal glands, ureters, bladder, and urethra. Urine is made in the renal tubules and collects in the renal pelvis of each kidney. The urine flows from the kidneys through the ureters to the bladder. The urine is stored in the bladder until it leaves the body through the urethra.

Neuroblastoma most often begins during early childhood, usually in children younger than 5 years. It sometimes forms before birth but is usually found later, when the tumor begins to grow and cause symptoms. In rare cases, neuroblastoma may be found before birth by fetal ultrasound.

By the time neuroblastoma is diagnosed, the cancer has usually metastasized (spread), most often to the lymph nodes, bones, bone marrow, liver, and skin.

(See the PDQ summary on Neuroblastoma Screening for more information.)

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

Neuroblastoma is sometimes inherited (passed from the parent to the child). It usually occurs at a younger age than neuroblastoma that is not inherited. There also may be more than one tumor in the adrenal medulla in inherited neuroblastoma.

Possible signs of neuroblastoma include bone pain and a lump in the abdomen, neck, or chest.

The most common 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 symptoms may be caused by neuroblastoma. Other conditions may cause the same symptoms. A doctor should be consulted if any of the following problems occur:

Less common signs of neuroblastoma include the following:

Tests that examine many different body tissues and fluids are used to detect (find) and diagnose neuroblastoma.

The following tests and procedures may be used:

Certain factors affect prognosis (chance of recovery) and treatment options.

The prognosis (chance of recovery) and treatment options depend on the following:

Prognosis and treatment decisions for neuroblastoma are also affected by tumor biology, which includes:

The tumor biology is said to be favorable or unfavorable, depending on these factors. A favorable tumor biology means there is a better chance of recovery.

In some infants, neuroblastoma may disappear without treatment. The infant is closely watched for symptoms of neuroblastoma. If symptoms occur, treatment may be needed.