Neuroblastoma is a solid tumour that develops outside of the brain from the cells (Neuroblasts) left behind from a baby’s development in the womb. It can occur anywhere in the body but the origin is usually in one of the two adrenal glands or in nerve tissue1.
The symptoms of Neuroblastoma will vary depending upon the site of the tumour but can include a swollen stomach, constipation or difficulty passing urine, breathlessness or difficulty swallowing, a lump in the neck, blemishes or lumps on the skin, weakness in limbs, bone pain and irritability. Sometimes Neuroblastoma can also cause jerky eye movements or muscle movements2
As Neuroblastoma’s are solid tumours, they are given a stage of development. This will often dictate the course of treatment required to treat the cancer. The stages include:
The cancer is just in one place and hasn’t spread, and can be removed by surgery.
The cancer is in one place and hasn’t spread, but can’t be removed safely by surgery.
The cancer has spread to other parts of the body.
The cancer has spread to the skin, liver or bone marrow in children aged less than 18 months.
Although it is known that Neurblastoma mutated from Neuroblasts, the reason this occurs is still unknown2
Fewer than 100 children in the UK are diagnosed each year with neuroblastoma 1
The number of children in England Diagnosed between 2003 and 2012 was 836 accounting for 19% of cancers diagnosed in that period3
The stage of the Neuroblastoma will ultimately define the course of treatment required. If manageable surgery may be enough to remove the tumour. However in other cases chemotherapy, radiotherapy, a stem cell transplant or immunotherapy may be required. Sometimes in babies and infants less than 18 months Neuroblastoma can go away on its own.2
The below is based on the five year survival rate for children who were diagnosed under the age of 15 in England.
For those diagnosed in 2008-2012 the survival rate was 68%, an increase of 4% for those diagnosed in 2003-2007 signalling an improvement in the effectiveness of treatments used to treat Neuroblastoma. The survival rate improves for those diagnosed under the age of one, with the survival rate for those diagnosed in 2008-2012 being 83%.3