Neuroblastoma, a type of cancer, develops in immature neuroblast nerve cells. It is a rare tumor that mostly affects children under the age of 5 years. Neuroblastoma is commonly found in the adrenal glands (glands present above the kidneys). It can also affect other organs like bone, spinal cord, abdomen, and skin.
Neuroblastoma is the 2nd most common solid malignancy in children. It occurs slightly more in boys than girls. It accounts for almost 10% of childhood cancer.
Signs and symptoms of Neuroblastoma
The common signs and symptoms of neuroblastoma are:
- A lump in the chest, abdomen, pelvis, or neck
- Back pain
- Persistent cough
- Weight loss
- Pain in the chest and back
- Swelling, Numbness, weakness, or paralysis in the leg
- Problems with balance, coordination, and movement
- Uncontrolled eye movements
- Fatigue, fever, and cough
- Bulging of the eyes and dark circles
- Upset stomach, diarrhea, and constipation
If the parents notice one or more of the above symptoms, they should take their child to a doctor. At HCG Manavata Cancer Center, we have some of the best neuroblastoma specialists in Nashik who are specially trained to care for pediatric patients with neuroblastoma.
Causes of Neuroblastoma
The exact cause of neuroblastoma is not known. However, some factors that increase the risk of neuroblastoma are:
- Infants and young children usually below the age of 10 years
- Having birth defects like nervous system defects and congenital heart disease
- A family history of neuroblastoma
Diagnosis of Neuroblastoma
At HCG, we have skilled cancer specialists who are capable of delivering the best neuroblastoma treatment in Nashik. The common tests performed for the diagnosis of neuroblastoma are:
- Physical examination: The doctor examines the suspected areas of the body to check for lumps or thickening.
- Blood tests and urine tests: The abnormal level of certain substances in blood and urine indicates neuroblastoma. For example, decreased RBC and an increase in catecholamine may indicate neuroblastoma.
- Bone marrow biopsy: A liquid sample is removed from the pelvic bone or hip bone marrow to check for neuroblastoma and metastasis of neuroblastoma in the bone marrow.
- Magnetic resonance imaging: It measures the neuroblastoma size and presence near the spine and its metastasis to other areas.
- Methyliodobenzylguanine scan (MBIG): A radioactive tracer called MBIG is used in this procedure. The tracer is taken up specifically by tumor cells that help to detect neuroblastoma.
Treatment for Neuroblastoma
The common procedures used for the treatment of neuroblastoma are:
Surgery: Early-stage neuroblastomas confined at a place are treated using the surgery. Removing neuroblastoma with surgery may be complicated, as it is generally located in a blood vessel supplying blood to vital organs. Therefore, it is usually performed in children with low-risk neuroblastoma. The surgeon removes the neuroblastoma cells along with the nearby lymph nodes.
Chemotherapy: Chemotherapy is mainly performed in children with intermediate-risk to high-risk neuroblastoma. It can be given before or after the surgery to shrink the tumor, destroy the neuroblastoma cells, and prevent neuroblastoma metastasis. The choice of chemotherapy as a treatment option depends on the neuroblastoma stage, its location, and the child’s age.
Immunotherapy: It may be used to treat children with high-risk neuroblastoma and when other treatment methods are working. Immunotherapy works by signaling the immune system to fight the cells of neuroblastoma. The currently used immunotherapy attacks a specific protein GD2 found outside the neuroblastoma cells.
Radiation therapy: The doctor can use radiation therapy to treat the neuroblastoma before the surgery as a part of the main treatment. It is used to treat the remaining neuroblastoma cells left after the stem cell transplant and to ease the serious symptoms of neuroblastoma. Radiation therapy is also used for the management of recurrent neuroblastoma as it is sensitive to radiation.
Iodine 131-MIBG therapy: The doctor injects the MIBG with a small dose of radioactive iodine. It is specifically absorbed by neuroblastoma cells resulting in their death. It is quite an effective method with fewer side effects. Iodine MIBG therapy is mainly used for children with high-risk neuroblastoma and recurring neuroblastoma.
Stem cell transplant: High-dose chemotherapy is given to kill the cancer cells. Later, the bone marrow is replaced with frozen stem cells to make healthy blood cells. The patients undergo this treatment when neuroblastoma has spread too far and cannot be removed using surgery. Usually, the child’s stem cells are used, which are preserved before starting the treatment.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is the survival rate of children with neuroblastoma?
The survival rate depends on several factors, such as the stage of neuroblastoma, metastasis of neuroblastoma, age of the child, and body’s response to the treatment. The five-year survival rate for low-risk patients is 95%. It is between 80-90% for moderate-risk patients, and for high-risk patients, it is about 50%.
What are the risks of neuroblastoma surgery?
The common risks associated with neuroblastoma surgery are a reaction to anesthesia, infections, bleeding, pain, and damage to nearby vital organs and nerves.
Can it be passed from one generation to another?
Yes, neuroblastoma can be passed from one generation to another. It may develop even before the birth of the baby.
Does neuroblastoma affect adults too?
Yes, young adults are also affected by neuroblastoma. However, their percentage is very small.
Does neuroblastoma metastasize to other areas of the body?
Neuroblastoma is an aggressive pediatric cancer. It can metastasize to other body parts and organs. Almost 70% of cases of neuroblastoma are diagnosed in the advanced stage.