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Neuroblastoma is a rare type of cancer that mostly affects babies and young children.
It develops from specialised nerve cells (neuroblasts) left behind from a baby's development in the womb.
Neuroblastoma most commonly occurs in one of the adrenal glands situated above the kidneys, or in the nerve tissue that runs alongside the spinal cord in the neck, chest, tummy or pelvis.
It can spread to other organs such as the bone marrow, bone, lymph nodes, liver and skin.
It affects around 100 children each year in the UK and is most common in children under the age of five.
The cause is unknown. There are very rare cases where children in the same family are affected, but generally neuroblastoma doesn't run in families.
This page covers:
The symptoms of neuroblastoma vary depending on where the cancer is and whether it has spread. The early symptoms can be vague and hard to spot, and can easily be mistaken for those of more common childhood conditions.
Symptoms can include:
See your GP or contact NHS 111 if you're worried your child might be seriously ill.
A number of tests may be carried out if it's thought your child could have neuroblastoma.
These tests may include:
Once these tests have been completed, it will usually be possible to confirm if the diagnosis is neuroblastoma and determine what stage it is.
As with most cancers, neuroblastoma is given a stage. This indicates if it has spread and, if so, how far.
The staging system used for neuroblastoma is:
Knowing the stage of your child's neuroblastoma will allow doctors to decide which treatment is best.
The main treatments for neuroblastoma are:
Some babies and infants less than 18 months old with either stage L1 or Ms neuroblastoma who have no symptoms may not need any treatment, as the cancer can sometimes go away on its own.
The outlook for neuroblastoma varies considerably, and is generally better for younger children whose cancer hasn't spread. Your doctors will be able to give you more specific information about your child.
Almost half of neuroblastomas are a type that can return despite intensive treatment. Further treatment will often be necessary in these cases.
Being told your child has cancer can be a distressing and daunting experience.
You may find it useful to contact a support group or charity, such as:
These are good sources of further information and advice. They may also have local support groups in your area where you can meet up with other parents.