Neuroblastoma is a very rare type of cancerous tumor that almost always affects children.
• Neuroblastoma accounts for 7 to10 percent of childhood
• Each year, 800 new cases are diagnosed in the United States.
• It occurs slightly more often in boys than in girls.
• Neuroblastoma accounts for 50 percent of all cancers in
infants, making it the most common tumor in infants younger
than 1 year.
• Most children with neuroblastoma are diagnosed before age 5.
• The number of cases of neuroblastoma is about the same
worldwide, so environmental factors do not seem to play a
Neuroblastoma- Childhood: Symptoms and Signs
The signs and symptoms of neuroblastoma vary widely, depending on the size of the tumor, where it is, how far it has spread, and if the tumor cells secrete hormones.
Many symptoms of neuroblastoma are caused by pressure from the tumor or bone pain if the cancer has spread to the bones. Pain may cause the child to limp, refuse to walk, or become unable to walk. Other symptoms may include:
• A lump or mass in the abdomen, chest, neck, or pelvis, often
found by a parent when bathing the child
• Skin lesions or nodules under the skin with blue or purple
• Eyes that bulge out and dark circles under the eyes, if the
cancer has spread behind the eyes
• Changes in the eyes, such as black eyes, a droopy eyelid, a
pupil that is constricted, vision problems, or changes in the
color of the iris
• Pain in the chest, difficulty breathing, or a persistent cough
• Pain in the arms, legs, or other bones
• Pain in the back, or weakness, numbness, or paralysis of the
legs if the tumor has spread to the spinal cord
• Fever and anemia, which is a low level of red blood cells
• Constant diarrhea or high blood pressure caused by hormones
released by the tumor
• Rotating movements of the eyes and sudden muscle jerks,
likely from immune system problems caused by the disease
How is neuroblastoma treated?
Treatment depends on the patient’s age and how much the disease has spread:
• Surgery — is used if the tumor has not spread to other parts of
the body. Surgical removal usually means the patient will
remain free of neuroblastoma.
• Chemotherapy (“chemo”)—uses powerful medicines to kill
cancer cells or stop them from growing (dividing) and making
more cancer cells
• Radiation therapy—uses high-energy X-rays or other types of
radiation to kill cancer cells or stop them from growing.
Radiation therapy may be combined with chemotherapy.
o External radiation uses machines outside the body to deliver
the X-ray dose.
o Internal radiation uses needles, seeds, wires or catheters (tubes) to deliver the radiation directly into or close to the cancer.
High-risk patients are given more intense treatments, higher-dose chemotherapy and immune therapy combined with a stem cell transplant may be used.
o Stem cell transplant—includes replacing blood-forming cells in the bone marrow that have been killed
by chemo and/or radiation therapy:
o A stem cell transplant gives the patient new immature blood cells from a donor’s blood or bone
marrow. These cells grow into healthy blood cells to replace the ones the patient lost.
o Some types of stem cell transplants may be called “bone marrow transplants” because the cells come
from the donor’s bone marrow.
o Immune therapy with an antibody called GD2 along with GM-CSF and Il-2 is given at the end of therapy.
What are the survival rates for neuroblastoma?
The 5-year survival rate can range anywhere from 30- 95 percent depending on the cancer type.
• Infants have a better chance than older children of remaining
free of neuroblastoma after treatment.
• Based on categories of risk, these are the five-year survival
rates for neuroblastoma:
• For low-risk patients: about 95 percent
• For moderate-risk patients: between 80 and 90 percent
• For high-risk patients: about 50 percent
Some late effects from treatment and tumor removal include seizures, hearing or vision loss or impairment, learning disabilities and more.