Neuroblastoma refers to cancer that arises in the neuroblasts, which are the immature or undeveloped nerve cells. These cells are present in many areas of our body. It most commonly affects small children aged 5 years and below. This cancer can also affect bigger kids and adults; however, the incidence is extremely rare. This cancer is one of the commonest cancers that affect small children.(1)
Is Neuroblastoma A Serious Condition?
Neuroblastoma is cancer. Like all cancers, there are some complications, side effects and late effects associated with neuroblastoma as well. Whether the neuroblastoma is serious or not depends upon many factors associated with your child, which may include- the age of the child at the time of diagnosis, the duration from the onset of symptoms, the stage at which the neuroblastoma has been diagnosed, the extent to where it has spread, other organs that have been affected, other medical conditions and the treatment method chosen.
Neuroblastoma, however, can cause certain serious complications, which may include-
Metastasis or spreading to other body parts and organs is one of the most common and serious complications of any cancer. It applies to neuroblastoma as well. The neuroblastoma may spread to bone marrow, lymph nodes, skin, liver, bones, etc.(1)
Compression Of The Spinal Cord-
The growing tumors may increase to a significant size and exert pressure on the spinal cord. This results in spinal cord compression and may cause pain and even paralysis(1)
The cancer cells may make certain secretions which may irritate other normal and healthy tissues. This irritation causes certain signs and symptoms which are known as paraneoplastic syndromes. These syndromes have different signs and symptoms as their presentations(1)
Can Neuroblastoma Be Reversed?
Neuroblastomas that affect children of over the age of 18 months are usually metastatic and unresectable. These require aggressive treatment with a multimodality approach. However, those occurring in infants below the age of 18 months have a very different outcome. These infants, even though suffering from metastasis, can usually be cured with chemotherapy of moderate intensity. Some others may go into regression spontaneously, without any treatment with chemotherapy. Children may also present with benign ganglioneuromas. These ganglioneuromas are representative of neuroblastomas which have become differentiated.
- With proper diagnosis and treatment, many children have a good chance at surviving neuroblastoma
- The tumors are even better if the neuroblastoma hasn’t spread and/or the child is less than one year of age
- Low-risk and intermediate-risk neuroblastomas have a better chance at regression, while high-risk neuroblastomas are much difficult to treat and cure. These also have a greater chance of becoming resistant or recurring frequently, even though the initial treatment was satisfactorily completed
Treatment For Neuroblastoma
The treatment for neuroblastoma in your child depends upon various factors like the age of the child, the stage at which the neuroblastoma, the category under which cancer falls and the duration of the onset of symptoms. It also depends upon abnormalities, if any, present in the genes and chromosomes.
On the basis of this information, the treatment may comprise of one or combination of any of the following treatment methods-
- Radiation therapy
- Bone marrow transplant
Other new treatment methods like newer forms of radiation therapy(3)
Neuroblastoma is cancer. As is with all other cancers, there are some complications, risks, serious side effects associated with neuroblastoma as well. Whether the neuroblastoma is serious or not depends upon many factors like the age of the child, the stage at which cancer has been diagnosed, the duration of onset of symptoms, the size, and location of cancer and the category under which it classifies. Neuroblastoma can be reversed in many cases with the help of a multifaceted treatment approach.
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