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Neuroblastoma

Neuroblastoma

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Perched atop each of your kidneys, your adrenal glands produce hormones that help regulate your metabolism, immune system, blood pressure and other essential functions. Although small, these glands dictate much of what happens in your body.

Neuroblastoma is a cancer that develops from immature nerve cells found in several areas of the body.

Neuroblastoma most commonly arises in and around the adrenal glands, which have similar origins to nerve cells and sit atop the kidneys. However, 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.

Neuroblastoma most commonly affects children age 5 or younger, though it may rarely occur in older children.

Some forms of neuroblastoma go away on their own, while others may require multiple treatments. Your child’s neuroblastoma treatment options will depend on several factors.

Signs and symptoms of neuroblastoma vary depending on what part of the body is affected.

Neuroblastoma in the abdomen — the most common form — may cause signs and symptoms such as:

Neuroblastoma in the chest may cause signs and symptoms such as:

Other signs and symptoms that may indicate neuroblastoma include:

Contact your child’s doctor if your child has any signs or symptoms that worry you. Mention any changes in your child’s behavior or habits.

In general, cancer begins with a genetic mutation that allows normal, healthy cells to continue growing without responding to the signals to stop, which normal cells do. Cancer cells grow and multiply out of control. The accumulating abnormal cells form a mass (tumor).

Neuroblastoma begins in neuroblasts — immature nerve cells that a fetus makes as part of its development process.

As the fetus matures, neuroblasts eventually turn into nerve cells and fibers and the cells that make up the adrenal glands. Most neuroblasts mature by birth, though a small number of immature neuroblasts can be found in newborns. In most cases, these neuroblasts mature or disappear. Others, however, form a tumor — a neuroblastoma.

It isn’t clear what causes the initial genetic mutation that leads to neuroblastoma.

Children with a family history of neuroblastoma may be more likely to develop the disease. Yet, familial neuroblastoma is thought to comprise a very small number of neuroblastoma cases. In most cases of neuroblastoma, a cause is never identified.

Complications of neuroblastoma may include:

Neuroblastoma care at Mayo Clinic

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Neuroblastoma

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