Who Is At Risk For Neuroblastoma & Is There A Blood Test For It?

Cancer of the neuroblasts, which are the immature or undeveloped nerve cells, is given the name neuroblastoma. These nerve cells are found in many areas in our body. this cancer affects especially small children of age 5 years and below. However, it may be seen in bigger kids as well as adults, though the occurrence is extremely rare.(3)

Who Is At Risk For Neuroblastoma?

If there is a family history of neuroblastoma, children may be at an increased risk of getting neuroblastoma. This is known as familial neuroblastoma. However, the occurrence of this is very rare. Usually, the cases of neuroblastoma belong to the type of sporadic neuroblastoma. This means that there are somatic mutations in the cells and it is not an inherited condition. This type of inheritance is known as autosomal dominant inheritance pattern. However, though a defective set of genes may increase your chances of getting affected by neuroblastoma, generally a somatic mutation is also needed along with this to give rise to neuroblastoma.(1)

Is There A Blood Test For Neuroblastoma?

Your doctor may recommend certain blood tests if he suspects neuroblastoma, or to establish a confirmed diagnosis. The blood tests may reveal the presence of certain chemicals that may be associated with neuroblastoma and may help in establishing a confirmed diagnosis.

Other than blood tests, other diagnostic procedures may include-

Physical Examination-

  • Your doctor will perform a thorough physical examination and will ask you about the signs and symptoms of your child
  • He may try to evaluate the behavior and habits of your child by asking a few questions(2)

Urine Tests-

  • A urine sample of your child may reveal the presence of certain chemicals that may be suggestive of the presence of a neuroblastoma
  • The urine tests may also reveal or indicate other causes that may be responsible for your child’s signs and symptoms(2)

Scans-

Scans or imaging tests like an x-ray, ultrasound, CT scan (computerized tomography), MRI (magnetic resonance imaging), MIBG scan (metaiodobenzylguanidine scan) may help in revealing the presence of a neuroblastoma and these scans may also be helpful in finding the exact location of the neuroblastoma and its origin in the body(2)

Biopsy-

  • If your child’s doctor finds a lump or a mass in his body, he may remove a sample from the mass and send it for laboratory examination to evaluate it further. This is termed as a biopsy
  • The laboratory examination may reveal what kind of cells the tumor is comprised of and also the genetic traits of the cancer cells.
  • These results will be extremely important for your doctor to chalk out an accurate and individually tailored treatment plan for your child(2)

Bone Marrow Sampling-

  • Your doctor may also want to perform a biopsy of the bone marrow sample- bone marrow is the spongy interior of a bone
  • This will help in establishing whether the neuroblastoma has spread to the bone marrow yet
  • To obtain a sample for bone marrow testing, a needle is inserted into the bones of the lower back or hip joint of your child and a sample is obtained through aspiration.(2)

All these tests help in establishing a confirmed diagnosis of the condition. These tests may also be helpful in establishing the stage of cancer. The stage of cancer, along with various other factors like the age of the child, the category of cancer (whether low-risk, intermediate-risk or high-risk), the extent of the spread of cancer, etc. will decide the course of the treatment.

Conclusion

Children with a family history of neuroblastoma may be more at risk of developing it, though the incidence is extremely rare. A blood test may reveal the presence of certain contents that are produced when there is cancer present in the body.

References:  

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