Neuroblastoma is a solid cancer (tumour) that develops from cells left behind from a baby’s development in the womb. These cells are called neuroblasts.
Every year in the UK, just under 100 children are diagnosed with neuroblastoma.
Neuroblastoma can occur anywhere in the body but it either starts in the adrenal glands (special glands that sit just above the kidneys) or in nerve tissue that runs alongside the spinal cord.
In some cases, neuroblastoma can spread to other places in the body such as the bone marrow, lymph nodes, bone, liver and skin.
- Swollen tummy
- Constipation or difficulty passing urine
- Breathlessness or difficulty swallowing
- Tiredness, looking pale, loss of appetite
- Weight loss, bone pain
- Blue, small lumps in the skin (neuroblastoma deposits)
- If in the neck, there may be a visible lump
- Occasionally, weakness in the legs or unsteady walking (if pressing on the spinal cord)
The treatment of neuroblastoma depends on the age of the child, the size and position of the tumour, the way the tumour is made up (the biology) and whether it has spread.
Treatment usually involves surgery, intense chemotherapy and radiotherapy. If neuroblastoma has spread to different parts of the body, treatment may involve high dose chemotherapy with stem cell rescue in addition.
Monoclonal antibodies are now used in some children with high-risk neuroblastoma. It is not yet a standard treatment for all children with neuroblastoma so is only available to patient in the UK that are being treated within a clinical trial.
Content reviewed July 2021