Neuroblastoma is a rare type of cancer where the proliferation of cells usually happens in the immature nerve cells called neuroblasts that are found in several areas of the body. The term Neuroblastoma consists of two words where ‘neuro' refers to ‘nerves', while ‘blastoma' means ‘cancer that starts in immature or developing cells’. Although in normal conditions, these immature nerve cells grow into working nerve cells or neurons, in the case of neuroblastoma, they thrive uncontrollably and evolve to become cancer cells that form a solid tumour.

In most cases, neuroblastoma chiefly arises in and around the adrenal glands, cells of which have similar origins to nerve cells and sit on top of the kidneys. However, it can also develop in other areas of the abdomen, neck and near the spinal column, and the chest where nerve cells exist in groups. Neuroblastoma is most commonly diagnosed in children aged 5 and below and rarely noticed in adults. While some forms of neuroblastoma often subside on their own without proper treatment, others require well-laid therapy.

Also Read: World Childhood Cancer Day: Know The Types, Facts And Significance


Just like any other type of cancer, the precise cause of Neuroblastoma is yet unknown, but several research studies suggest that it usually forms when there is a genetic mutation or defective genes in the cells of the neuroblasts, immature nerve cells that a fetus makes as part of its developmental process. In a healthy fetus, as it matures, the neuroblasts mature and ultimately turn into nerve cells and fibres and also the cells that make up the adrenal glands. However, in the case of Neuroblastoma, some neuroblasts do not mature but keep dividing leading to a surge of abnormally shaped cells that do not die and keep accumulating to form tumour-like structures.

Also Read: Spinal Cord Tumour: Causes, Symptoms And Treatment

Risk Factors

Certain causative factors that increase the risk of Neuroblastoma include:

Heredity: Children having a family history of Neuroblastoma have a higher incidence of having it

Birth Defect: The risk of Neuroblastoma is greater in children born with congenital birth defects


The characteristic signs and symptoms of neuroblastoma vary depending upon the particular part of the body that is affected.

Neuroblastoma in the abdomen:

  • A mass of tissue under the skin later that isn't tender when touched
  • Abdominal pain
  • Diarrhea
  • Constipation
  • Swollen belly

Neuroblastoma in the chest:

  • Pain in the chest
  • Wheezing
  • Drooping eyelids
  • Unequal size of the pupil in either eye

Other signs and symptoms include:

  • Bone pain
  • Piles of tissue under the skin
  • Proptosis, a condition where eyeballs that seem to protrude from the sockets
  • Fever
  • Dark circles
  • Back pain
  • Intense fatigue
  • Sudden unexplained weight loss
  • Loss of appetite


If the condition is not treated on time, it can spread to other parts of the body such as lymph nodes, bone marrow, spinal column etc. and even cause compression of the spinal cord which can ultimately lead to paralysis.

Diagnosis And Treatment

On noticing the above-mentioned signs and symptoms in your child, do rush your kid to the doctor. The doctor usually does a thorough physical check-up, acknowledges the patient's family history and conducts the following diagnostics:

  • Blood and urine tests
  • Imaging techniques, such as X-rays, CT scans, MRIs, and Ultrasounds
  • Biopsy
  • Bone marrow aspiration and biopsy


The effective treatment plan usually depends upon the age of the child, the stage of cancer, the type of cells implicated in cancer, and whether there are any anomalies in the chromosomes and genes of the child from birth. It includes:

  • Surgery
  • Radiation therapy
  • Chemotherapy
  • Immunotherapy
  • Bone marrow transplant
  • Nerve treatments
  • Coping and support