What Is Neuroblastoma?

What Is Neuroblastoma?

Neuroblastoma is a rare cancer that develops in the nervous system of infants and young children. Neuroblastoma typically affects children under age 5 but may very rarely affect older children and adults. Neuroblastoma often starts in the adrenal glands above the kidneys, and tumors are often found in the belly, neck, chest, or pelvis and can spread to other areas of the body. The cause of this cancer is unknown, and there are no known ways to prevent neuroblastoma.

Treatment for neuroblastoma depends on the child’s age and the cancer stage, risk category, and tumor location. Treatment may include surgery, chemotherapy, radiation, immunotherapy, or a combination of these treatments.

Stages of Neuroblastoma


Staging is a way to describe the state of a cancer, such as the tumor size and whether it has spread to other parts of the body. Doctors use a range of tests to determine if a patient has cancer and if so, the type of cancer and its stage. Knowing the stage helps doctors choose the best treatment for the patient.

The staging system for neuroblastoma uses the results of imaging tests to evaluate the size of the tumor and determine if it has spread. From there, a risk group can be assigned. The risk group depends on the patient’s age and the tumor’s properties and response to treatment.

Two prevalent groups have developed categories for risk classifications: the Children’s Oncology Group (COG), and the International Neuroblastoma Risk Group (INRG).

Risk groups for neuroblastoma include:

  • Very low-risk neuroblastoma (used in the INRG classification only)
  • Low-risk neuroblastoma
  • Intermediate-risk neuroblastoma
  • High-risk neuroblastoma

Signs & Symptoms of Neuroblastoma


Signs and symptoms of neuroblastoma may include:

  • Lump in the abdomen, neck, or chest
  • Painless, bluish lumps under the skin (in infants)
  • Bulging eyes
  • Dark circles around the eyes
  • Weakness in a body part
  • Bone pain
  • Fatigue
  • Fever
  • Diarrhea
  • Opsoclonus-myoclonus syndrome (OMS), a rare autoimmune condition typically affecting young children that can cause rapid eye movements and jerking movements, can be triggered by a viral infection or neuroblastoma

What Causes Neuroblastoma?


The exact cause of most neuroblastomas is not known. Most neuroblastomas are the result of changes in immature nerve cells called neuroblasts, which cause them to grow out of control. The causes of the change into cancer cells are currently unknown.

Risk Factors

Risk Factors

There are no known environmental or behavioral risk factors for this cancer. Risk factors for neuroblastoma include:

  • Age. Neuroblastoma is rare, but it’s one of the most common cancers in babies. Most cases are diagnosed before the age of 2 and almost always develop before age 5. Age is the main risk factor for neuroblastoma.
  • Genetics. In very rare cases, neuroblastoma is passed down in families from a parent to a child.
Get Care

Trust NewYork-Presbyterian for Neuroblastoma Care

At NewYork-Presbyterian, our pediatric oncologists, surgeons, and oncology nurses have the expertise and compassion to treat children with neuroblastoma. We offer neuroblastoma treatments based on the findings of the latest medical research, customized to the cancer stage and risk group of each child. Call us today to make an appointment.