Neuroblastoma is a tumor that develops from neuroblasts (immature nerve tissue) in an infant or child, usually before the age of 5. It most often develops in infancy and may be diagnosed in the first month of life. The tumor most often develops in the adrenal gland, but may develop in the neck, chest, or spinal cord. It is considered an aggressive tumor because it often spreads to other parts of the body (metastasizes). In most cases, it has spread by the time it is diagnosed. A neuroblastoma can cause a variety of signs and symptoms, including a lump where the tumor is growing, bone pain, diarrhea, and various neurological symptoms.
The cause of most neuroblastomas is not known. Rarely, a neuroblastoma is caused by an inherited mutation in a gene, such as the ALK gene or PHOX2B gene. Diagnosing a neuroblastoma may rely on a physical examination, blood tests, imaging tests (such as MRI or CT scan) and ultimately, a biopsy. Treatment depends on the size and location of the tumor within the body, as well as the child’s age. Surgery is often the first step of treatment, and may be followed by chemotherapy, radiation therapy, or a stem cell transplant in more severe cases. In some children the tumor goes away without treatment. While the long-term outlook and chance of survival depends on many factors, the 5-year survival rate ranges from 40-50% in some, to over 95% in others. The child’s doctor is in the best position to provide personalized information about the outlook in each case.
For more information, visit GARD.