What is neuroblastoma?
Neuroblastoma is a rare cancer that forms from immature nerve cells in nerve tissue, usually beginning in the adrenal glands because they have similar origins to nerve cells. Neuroblastoma can also develop in other areas of the abdomen and In the chest, neck, and near the spine, where groups of nerve cells exist. It most often affects children who are five years old or younger.
What causes neuroblastoma?
Neuroblastoma begins with a genetic mutation in neuroblasts, which are the immature nerve cells that a fetus makes as part of its development process. These neuroblasts usually mature by birth or disappear, but some form a tumor that causes neuroblastoma.
It is unclear what initially causes the genetic mutation that leads to neuroblastoma.
What are the symptoms of neuroblastoma?
The signs and symptoms of neuroblastoma are largely dependent on the part of the body that is affected. However, the most common symptoms of neuroblastoma are the following:
- A lump in the abdomen, neck, or chest
- Bulging eyes
- Dark circles around the eyes
- Bone pain
- Swollen stomach and trouble breathing in babies
- Painless, bluish lumps under the skin in babies
- Inability to move a body part
How is neuroblastoma diagnosed?
Neuroblastoma is diagnosed using a series of tests and procedures after a physical exam. These include urine and blood tests, X-rays, ultrasounds, CT scans, tissue biopsies, and/or bone marrow biopsies.
What are the available treatments for neuroblastoma?
Specific treatment regimens and combinations for neuroblastoma are dependent on the age of onset, the stage of the cancer, the type of cells involved in the cancer, and any chromosome or gene abnormalities that may be present. The treatment options include:
- Surgery to remove cancer cells
- Chemotherapy to destroy cancer cells
- Radiation therapy to destroy cancer cells
- Stem cell transplant to form new, healthy blood cells
- Immunotherapy to signal the immune system to kill the neuroblastoma cells
- Newer treatments, such as MIBG therapy