Neuroblastoma in children and young adults

What is neuroblastoma?

Neuroblastoma is a cancer that forms within early nerve cells called neuroblasts, which are part of the sympathetic nervous system. It develops when neuroblasts grow uncontrollably and form a solid tumour, most commonly in the abdomen or chest.

Neuroblastoma primarily occur in infants and children under the age of 5. It is the second most common solid tumour in young children making up about 4% of all childhood cancers. Neuroblastoma is the most common solid cancer in infants.

Signs and symptoms of neuroblastoma

Neuroblastoma can be difficult to diagnose during the early stages as symptoms can be vague or can be attributed to other conditions. This is why it is important to see a doctor early. The symptoms that are experienced will differ depending on the location of the neuroblastoma in the body.

Symptoms of neuroblastoma in the abdomen include:

  • Pain in the abdomen
  • A lump under the skin
  • A swollen stomach
  • Decreased appetite
  • Diarrhoea or constipation

Neuroblastoma in the chest may cause symptoms such as:

  • Wheezing or difficulty breathing
  • Pain in the chest
  • Drooping eyelids or other changes to the eyes

Other symptoms of neuroblastoma, particularly in the later stages, include:

  • Dark circles around the eyes
  • Bone pain
  • Fever
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Movement difficulties, such as numbness, a limp or inability to move arms or legs
  • Bulging eyes
  • Sweating

Other less common symptoms, due to the hormones released by neuroblastoma cells, include:

  • Persistent diarrhoea
  • High blood pressure
  • Fast heart beat

Treatment for neuroblastoma


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