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A solid cancer of the nerve tissue of the sympathetic nervous system, neuroblastoma usually begins in early childhood and, in majority of cases, will have already spread to areas outside of the original site at the time of diagnosis.

Diagnosis can be complicated, which is why a pathologist familiar with neuroblastoma should be consulted.

Treatment depends on the stage of the cancer. Low-risk patients may be told to wait and see if the tumour disappears on its own, or may need surgery and a few months of chemotherapy, while intermediate-risk patients may require surgery and 12-24 weeks of chemotherapy.

Treatment for high-risk patients includes an aggressive combination of chemotherapy, surgery, myeloablative chemotherapy, radiation, possible total-body irradiation, and stem cell transplant using a patient’s own stem cells.

Symptoms are caused by the tumour pressing on nearby tissues as it grows and can include:

  • A lump or mass in the abdomen, neck, chest, or pelvis
  • Loss of appetite, nausea, weight loss, stomach pain, constipation, diarrhoea, difficulty urinating
  • Changes in the eyes; black eyes, a droopy eyelid, a pupil that doesn’t constrict, vision problems
  • Pain in the chest, difficulty breathing, persistent cough
  • In infants, painless, bluish lumps under the skin
  • Bone pain, fever, irritability, listlessness
  • Backaches
  • Pain or numbness in the lower extremities, limping, inability to stand, stumbling

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