Pacific Cancer Programs

Sympathetic Nervous Cancer (Neuroblastoma)

Neuroblastoma is a cancer that forms in your nerve tissue. It usually begins in the adrenal glands, which sit atop your kidneys. It may also begin in your neck, chest or spinal cord. The cancer often begins in early childhood and accounts for 8 to 10 percent of all childhood cancers. It is the most common cancer in infants, with an incidence rate almost double that of leukemia. More than 95 percent of neuroblastoma cases are diagnosed by age 10, although sometimes the cancer begins before the child is born. By the time doctors find the cancer, it has usually spread to other parts of the body.

The most common symptoms are:

  • A lump in the abdomen, neck or chest
  • Bulging eyes
  • Dark circles or bruising around the eyes
  • Pain in the bones due to spreading of the cancer to the bones
  • Swollen stomach and trouble breathing in babies
  • Blue or purple bumps on the skin
  • Inability to move a body part

Other symptoms include:

  • Tiredness, irritability, weakness, frequent infections and excessive bleeding from small cuts or scrapes due to bone marrow being affected
  • Fever
  • Constant diarrhea
  • High blood pressure
  • Rapid heartbeat
  • Reddening of the skin (flushing)
  • Sweating

Treatments include surgery, radiation therapy, chemotherapy or a combination. Sometimes before giving treatment, doctors wait to see whether symptoms get worse.

Acknowledgment: This text is adapted from the MedlinePlus and CNCF websites.


General Information

National Cancer Institute (NCI)

NCI has up-to-date information for patients and practitioners about neuroblastoma.

American Cancer Society (ACS)

ACS has extensive information for all aspects of neuroblastoma.

MedlinePlus - Neuroblastoma Link

MedlinePlus will direct you to information to help answer health questions. MedlinePlus brings together authoritative information from NLM, the National Institutes of Health (NIH), and other government agencies and health-related organizations. MedlinePlus also has extensive information about drugs, an illustrated medical encyclopedia, interactive patient tutorials, and latest health news. Please make sure you check the MedlinePlus online for Neuroblastoma information with an extensive, constantly updated resource list.

American Society of Clincal Oncology (ASCO)

"Cancer.Net brings the expertise and resources of the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO), the voice of the world's cancer physicians, to people living with cancer and those who care for and care about them. ASCO is composed of nearly 30,000 members who are the leaders in advancing cancer care. All the information and content on Cancer.Net was developed and approved by the cancer doctors who are members of ASCO, making Cancer.Net an up-to date and trusted resource for cancer information."

Children's Neuroblastoma Cancer Foundation (CNCF)

The Children's Neuroblastoma Cancer Foundation is a non-profit national health organization committed to finding a cure for neuroblastoma through research, education, awareness and advocacy. The premier source for neuroblastoma information and resources, CNCF initiatives educate the public about a disease dramatically lacking in awareness and funding. It serves as an advocate for families, as well as a liaison between healthcare providers and families.

Printed Materials to Download

ASCO Answers: Neuroblastoma

American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO), 2008. 2 pages.

ASCO Answers is a series of fact sheets that provides an introduction to a specific type of cancer. Each fact sheet is a PDF that includes an overview of what the cancer is, an illustration of where the cancer starts, how it is treated, terms to know, and questions to ask the doctor.

National Cancer Institute (NCI) - SEER Pediatric Monograph

NCI has provided an 8 page factsheet about sympathetic nervous system tumors.

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