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In neuroblastoma, the tumor cells are distributed in certain types of nerve tissue in the body, being the most common characteristic the sympathetic nervous system (part of the nervous system that controls body functions, such as heart rate and blood pressure, digestion, and levels of certain hormones) although it usually begins in the abdomen and adrenal glands.

It is unknown why the tumor develops. Neuroblastoma is most frequently diagnosed in infants and children under 5 years of age, and occurs in approximately 1 out of 100,000 children, being slightly more common in boys.

In the majority of patients, by the time neuroblastoma is diagnosed, the cancer has usually metastasized (spread). Neuroblastoma spreads most often to the lymph nodes, bones, bone marrow, liver, and in infants, skin.

Sometimes, the neuroblastoma is hereditary (passed from parents to children). This form usually develops at an earlier age than the non-hereditary neuroblastoma. In patients with hereditary neuroblastoma, the neuroblastoma usually occurs at a younger age and more than one tumor may form in the adrenal medulla.


The first symptoms are generally fever, a a general sick feeling (malaise), and pain. There may also be loss of appetite, weight loss, and diarrhea.

Other symptoms depend on the site of the tumor, and may include:

  • Bone pain or tenderness (if the cancer has spread to the bones)
  • Difficulty breathing or a chronic cough (if the cancer has spread to the chest)
  • Enlarged abdomen (from a large tumor or excess fluid)
  • Flushed, red skin
  • Pale skin and bluish color around the eyes
  • Profuse sweating
  • Rapid heart rate (tachycardia)
  • Bulging eyes or dark circles around the eyes
  • In infants, painless, bluish lumps under the skin


Brain and nervous system problems may include:

  • Inability to empty the bladder
  • Loss of movement (paralysis) of the hips, legs, or feet (lower extremities)
  • Problems with balance
  • Uncontrolled eye movements or leg and feet movements


Currently there are no measures to prevent neuroblastoma development. As with other malignant tumors, early detection is important so that treatment can begin in the early stages of the illness. However, the illness generally goes undiscovered and is not diagnosed until it has spread.

Gene or region studied

  • LINC00340, P2RX7
  • LMO1
  • CASC15
  • BARD1
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