Cancer which is seen to be affecting very small children, usually around or below the age of 5 years and affects the undeveloped nerve cells is known as neuroblastoma. In bigger children and adults, the occurrence of neuroblastoma is extremely rare.(2)
What Part Of The Body Does Neuroblastoma Affect?
Neuroblastoma very commonly occurs in and near the adrenal glands. These glands are situated on top of the kidneys, one each, and are similar in origin to the nerve cells. That said, it may also emerge in other regions in the body like abdomen, chest, around the spine, etc. In short, it can occur anywhere where a cluster of nerves are present in your body(2)
Are You Born With Neuroblastoma?
Children may be born with neuroblastoma. However, it is usually not diagnosed until it has grown enough to compress and affect nearby organs and body parts. In rare cases, neuroblastomas can be diagnosed before a baby is born, through a fetal ultrasound. Neuroblastoma is seen to be affecting children aged 5 years or younger. Very rarely, it is seen in bigger children as well.
Neuroblastoma occurs due to somatic mutations taking place in the cells of your body. It is known as sporadic neuroblastoma. It means it was not inherited. That said, an extremely small number of people do get familial neuroblastoma, and this type is known as autosomal dominant inheritance pattern. In this type, one copy of defective genes is passed from a parent to the child. However, this alone is usually not responsible for causing neuroblastoma. An addition of somatic mutations to this defect in genes is probably required for the neuroblastoma to develop. Though, possessing a defective gene does increase one’s chances of getting neuroblastoma.(1)
Presentations In Neuroblastoma-
The presentations of this condition depend upon the area or organ in the body that is affected.
In the abdominal neuroblastoma, the symptoms may include-
A mass or lump in the abdomen below the skin. It is not tender to touch
There may be loose motions or constipation
In chest neuroblastoma, the symptoms may include –
Neuroblastoma may present with many other different symptoms, like –
- Lumps or mass below your skin
- Proptosis or protruding eyeballs
- Dark circles around eyes
- Pain in the back
- Pain in the bones(2)
If there are any of the signs and symptoms visible, it may be time to consult your doctor.
Cancer generally starts with a mutation in the genes. This mutation makes healthy and normal cells to grow abnormally and beyond control. These cells do not respond to a hint to stop, while normal cells do. The cells in cancer keep growing out of proportion and uncontrollably. This surplus, extra, uncontrollable growth of cells results in a mass or a lump, which we know as a tumor.(2)
Neuroblastoma is cancer that starts in immature or early nerve cells. The undeveloped nerve cells are made by the fetus as a mechanism of its normal growth course. Most of these nerve cells become mature by the time the baby is born. Some of the cells, however, may remain undeveloped and may either mature upon birth or vanish. Those that do not develop or vanish, they turn into neuroblastoma. The reason for the genetic mutation is not clear yet.(2)
Neuroblastoma very commonly occurs near or in the adrenal glands. However, it can appear in any part of the body that has a cluster of nerve cells. Neuroblastoma may prevail at the time of birth however; it is usually diagnosed when the tumor grows enough to affect nearby organs.