Neuroblastoma is a medical term for life threatening cancerous tumors that commonly occur in children who are under the age of 5. Two thirds of all children diagnosed with this form of cancer are under the age of 5. In very rare cases the tumor may be discovered in a fetus during a fetal ultrasound. One third of all of these cancerous tumors originate as an abdominal mass and another one third begin in the medulla. The remaining one third is typically found in the neck, chest or pelvis sympathetic ganglia regions.

The good news is that the survival rate for children who are under the age of 1 and who have been diagnosed with early stages Neuroblastoma is 83%. A child who is between the ages of 1 and 4, has a survival rate of 55%. Children who are 5 and older only have a 40% chance of survival. The bad news is that children who have diagnosed late and have stage 4 Neuroblastoma have much lower survival rates. For example, a child who has stage 4 Neuroblastoma and is older than the age of 1 only has a 15% survival rate.

The location and size of the tumor will cause various symptoms in different children. Some common symptoms are

  • Abdominal distention with respiratory problems because of a large abdominal tumor mass. The mass may be found during a medical exam or seen as a swollen abdomen
  • Tumors in the face or head causing swelling and bruising of the area around the eyes and uncontrolled eye movement
  • Changes in bladder control because of a tumor pressing on the kidney or bladder
  • Limping, weakness or paralysis due to bone marrow involvement or tumor pressing on the spinal column
  • Diarrhea caused by a substance produced by the tumor (vasoactive intestinal peptide, or VIP)
  • Fever
  • Hypertension and increased heart rate may occur depending on location of tumor and the organs the tumor compresses

When a child has Neuroblastoma which is categorized as high risk there will be pain due to the tumor mass pressing on nerves or other organ. There will be bone pain as well if the tumor metastases and spreads to the bone marrow.

There are three risk divisions for these tumors which are low, intermediate and high risk tumors. If the tumor has not metastasized and is categorized as low risk, surgical removal is the first step to treating this disease. The main medications used to treat children with low risk Neuroblastoma are vincristine, cisplatin, etoposide, cyclophosphamide and toptecan. When a child is diagnosed with a stage 4 Neuroblastoma they are in the high risk category. This means the child will have to undergo aggressive, high dosage chemotherapy. Surgery can be done if the tumor is small enough and localized. If chemotherapy is used it may damage or destroy bone marrow so a bone marrow transplant may be necessary. Stem cell transplants may also be needed. Radiation treatment of the infected area is also done to kill off any remaining cancer cells after the tumor is surgically removed.

When chemotherapy and radiation is used to treat Neuroblastoma the common side effects are vomiting, loss of hair, skin rash, diarrhea and increased susceptibility to infections. Managing this disease is both painful and tiring for the child and the parents. The earlier the diagnosis is made the better the chances of survival. In fact, if caught early enough he survival rates are very high. It is very important for children to get regular medical check ups so that Neuroblastoma can be caught early. Since the symptoms can resemble other conditions or medical problems you should always consult your child’s pediatrician for a correct diagnosis. Various blood tests, Cat scans, ultrasounds and other testing can be done to make a correct diagnosis.

Last updated on Jul 28th, 2010 and filed under Cancer Research. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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