What is Neuroblastoma?
In a healthy child, these cells become the nerves that control functions such as the heartbeat and blood pressure, and the way your child’s body reacts to stress. A part of the nervous system called the sympathetic nervous system controls these functions.
In neuroblastoma, the neuroblasts never mature. Instead, they divide and grow into tumors.
Most often these tumors start in the nerves of the adrenal glands. These glands sit on top of the kidneys and release hormones that control the sympathetic nervous system.
But these tumors can begin in any part of the body. The chest, neck, pelvis and spinal cord are other common places for them.
As the disease goes on, it can spread (metastasize) to other areas of the body. It usually spreads to the lymph nodes (part of the immune system), bones, bone marrow (where blood cells are made), liver or skin.
For most children, the neuroblastoma has spread to at least one of these areas by the time doctors diagnose the disease.
Neuroblastoma in Children?
It is the most common solid tumor in children younger than 1 year of age. But it accounts for less than 10% of all childhood cancers.
Most children with this disease get it before age 5. In some kids, the disease starts before birth.
In most cases – no matter what the child’s age – parents and doctors don’t know the disease is there until tumors grow large enough to be felt.
Doctors do not know what causes the changes in cells that lead to this disease. It’s not clear whether certain factors increase a child’s risk.