Neuroblastoma is a childhood cancer that develops outside the brain. It arises when specialized nerve cells fail to mature properly after the development of the baby in the womb. It grows as a solid tumor starting from the adrenal glands. It may also develop alongside the spine in the neck, chest, abdomen or pelvis. It can even spread to other parts of the body. Its symptoms include unexplainable weight loss, loss of appetite, irritability, constipation and many more. It can be treated with surgery, chemotherapy, radiotherapy and bone marrow transplantation.
What Leads To Neuroblastoma & Can It Be Cured?
Neuroblastoma is the most common childhood cancer that develops outside the central nervous system. It is the third most common cancer in children after leukemia (blood cancer) and other brain cancers. It is responsible for the death of children in 15% of the cases of cancer.(1)
Neuroblastoma develops in the immature neuroblast cells. It is cancer that starts in the early nerve cells formed outside the brain of the infants and young children usually under the age of 5years.(2)
Neuroblasts are immature nerve cells that are present in the fetus inside the mother’s womb. These cells mature enough to form nerve cells or cells of the adrenal medulla (center of the adrenal gland) and do not form cancer. If they do not mature properly, then they tend to grow continuously and lead to the formation of a solid mass called a tumor.(2)
In a few cases, genetic inheritance of the mutated genes may induce the formation of tumors in the neuroblast cells. Genes in DNA may get mutated in a random manner that is transmitted to the babies from their parents. However, it happens rarely as the neuroblast tumors when the neuroblast cells have genetic mutations after the formation of the neuroblasts that impact its maturation into healthy nerve cells in the growing stage of the fetus inside the womb or after the delivery, not during conception.(3)
Neuroblastoma can be cured when it is detected in the early stages. It means cancer can be cured when it has not spread to the other parts of the body. In some babies who are under the age of 18 months and in the stage, L1 or Ms may not require treatment. They may not exhibit any symptoms of cancer. The neuroblast cells may mature properly and stop growing on their own. Thus, this cancer sometimes goes away on its own without any treatment.(4)
The outlook of neuroblastoma is dependent on the spread of cancer. It is good for children who are younger and whose cancer has not traveled to the other parts of the body. In some cases, cancer may return even if the child is subjected to intensive treatment.(4)
The majority of the cases of neuroblastoma are treated with surgery. Surgical removal of the cancer cells may end cancer in early stages. It may be followed by radiotherapy to destroy the remaining cancer cells after the surgery. Chemotherapy is also advocated before the surgery to kill the cancer cells. In some cases, high dose chemotherapy is followed by stem cell transplantation. The stem cells are collected prior to the chemotherapy and are stored in the frozen form to give afterward. In some cases, immunotherapy is given to the patients that target directly to the neuroblast tumors to treat them.(4)
Neuroblastoma arises due to improper maturation of the neuroblast cells into healthy nerve cells that may accumulate to form tumors. In rare cases, this cancer may be inherited from the parents. It can be cured completely when the child is below 18 months or younger and in early stages when the cancer cells are not spread to the other parts of the body
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