What is Neuroblastoma?

Neuroblastoma is a type of cancer.  It is the most common type of cancer that infants and children under the age of 5 are likely to have.  It grows within the tissues of the sympathetic nervous system, which is the part of the nervous system that help to carry messages from various parts of the body to the brain and from your brain to different parts of your body.  It develops as a tumor and it can spread to skin, bones, and lymph nodes.

This tumor develops in 4 stages that take into account whether or not the cancer has spread to nearby or even distant areas, the results of surgical intervention, and if it has spread to lymph nodes.

Neuroblastoma is defined as ‘recurrent’ if it comes back after being cured.

What are the Symptoms of Neuroblastoma?

Symptoms of neuroblastoma vary from child to child but some of the more common symptoms are bulging eyes and dark circles under the eyes, a lump in the neck, abdomen, or chest, swelling in the abdomen, weakness, paralysis, bone pain, and bruise-like swelling under the skin that doesn’t hurt.

Other symptoms that are more variable and may or may not occur are diarrhea, coughing, fever, tiredness, shortness of breath, petechaie (small flat red spots on the skin), bleeding and bruising for no apparent reason, and rapid heartbeat.

How is Neuroblastoma Treated?

The treatment that your doctor recommends for your child with neuroblastoma will depend on their stage of cancer and their age.  It can include, separately or in combination, radiation therapy, surgery, immunotherapy, chemotherapy, or stem cell transplant. Treatment can take place over a period of years.

Radiation therapy involves the use of high-energy particles of rays to kill the cancerous cells. A machine is used to aim the rays at a specific area. Side effects can include fatigue, skin irritations, and diarrhea.

Immunotherapy involves the use of medications designed to stimulate the immune system to help it fight disease.  It has also been called biologic therapy.

Chemotherapy makes use of anticancer drugs.  They are received intravenously but there is also the option to get them orally and these drugs can help kill the cancerous cells. There are side effects of chemotherapy that include vomiting, mouth sores, fatigue, nausea, a weakened immune system, and hair loss.  The side effects only occur during the treatment period.

Stem cell therapy is more commonly known as a bone marrow transplant and usually is suggested as a last resort or when other treatment options are not a good choice for your child.