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Health Information Center


  • Michael Jubinville, MPH
Publication Type:




Neuroblastoma is a rare cancer. It often starts in nerve tissue near the adrenal glands. The glands are just above the kidneys. Some neuroblastomas may start and grow in other parts of the body.

In some, the tumor may start forming before birth.

Adrenal Glands.

Nucleus factsheet imagehttp://services.epnet.com/getimage.aspx?imageiid=76497649si55551627.jpgsi55551627.jpgNULLjpgsi55551627.jpgNULL\\hgfiler01a\intellect\images\si55551627.jpgNULL8NULL2008-12-10254390Copyright © Nucleus Medical Media, Inc.


Cancer is when cells in the body split without control or order. These cells go on to form a growth or tumor. The term cancer refers to harmful growths. These growths invade nearby tissues. They also spread to other parts of the body. It is not clear what causes this to happen. It may be a mix of genes and the environment.

Risk Factors

Neuroblastoma is mainly found in children under 5 years of age. It is also more common in males. A child’s chances are also higher for:


Symptoms will depend on the where the tumor is and if it has spread. Some include:

  • A mass—usually the chest, neck, or belly
  • Belly pain—may be swollen in babies
  • Back or bone pain
  • Bowel changes or problems passing urine
  • Breathing problems or cough
  • Weak muscles
  • Eye problems
  • Easy bruising or bleeding
  • Weight loss

Problems may be due to a hormone imbalance caused by the tumor. These will depend on the hormone.


The doctor will ask about symptoms and health history. The caregiver's answers and a physical exam may point to a neuroblastoma.

The doctor may also want to do:

  • Blood tests
  • Urine tests
  • Tests for certain genes
  • Biopsy
  • Imaging tests such as:
    • Ultrasound
    • MRI scan
    • CT scan
    • Metaiodobenzylguanidine (mIBG) scan—to find tumor sites in the body

The test results will help find if the tumor has spread. This helps with making a treatment plan.


Some neuroblastomas go away on their own. The doctor may want to watch for any changes for some time.

If needed, methods to treat neuroblastoma may be combined.


Neuroblastomas cannot be prevented.


Small tumors may be removed with surgery. For some children this may offer a cure.


Small tumors may be removed with surgery. For some children this may offer a cure.

Chemotherapy and Radiation Therapy

Chemotherapy is the use of drugs to kill cancer cells. The drugs enter the bloodstream and travel through the body.

With radiation therapy, radiation is aimed at the tumor to kill the cancer cells. This may be used if the cancer has spread.

Bone Marrow Transplantation

Bone marrow is removed, treated, and frozen. High dose chemotherapy or radiation kill any leftover cancer cells. It is replaced by your child’s own bone marrow or from a healthy donor. It is put back in the body through an IV.





  • Neuroblastoma treatment (PDQ®)-patient version. National Cancer Institute website. Available at: https://www.cancer.gov/types/neuroblastoma/patient/neuroblastoma-treatment-pdq.
  • Neuroblastoma. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at:  https://www.dynamed.com/condition/neuroblastoma.
  • Neuroblastoma. Kids Health—Nemours Foundation website. Available at: https://kidshealth.org/en/parents/neuroblastoma.html.


  • Rimas Lukas, MD
Last Updated:

This content is reviewed regularly and is updated when new and relevant evidence is made available. This information is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with questions regarding a medical condition.