Neuroblastoma is a common extracranial cancer that claims 15 % of deaths in children. It is a cancer of nerve cells (neuroblast) that fail to mature properly. These cells are found in infants. This cancer affects children under the age of 5 years and it is rare in children above 10 years. It begins from the adrenal glands and can spread to the other parts of the body. It is represented by symptoms like loss of appetite, excessive weight loss, fever, irritability, swelling in the abdomen, and many more. It can be diagnosed with blood and urine tests, X-ray, ultrasound, MRI and CT scan.
How Do You Know If Your Child Has Neuroblastoma & How Does Neuroblastoma Start?
You can know that your child has Neuroblastoma by its symptoms and diagnostic tests. Its symptoms depend on the location of the tumors, its size, its growths and its spread to other parts.
Symptoms in the abdomen
- Swelling in the abdomen
- Loss of appetite, the child does not want to eat much
- Severe weight loss
- Pain in the abdomen
- Constant feeling of fullness in the abdomen
- Diarrhea and constipation, the child does not want to pee
- Swelling in the legs or in the scrotum due to the pressure imposed by the tumors on the blood vessels and lymph vessels. (1)
Symptoms in the neck and chest
- Swelling in the neck and chest sometimes near the face and arms
- Pain in the head accompanied by dizziness
- Difficulties during breathing and swallowing
- Problems related to the eyes such as unequal pupil sizes and drooping of eyelids (1)
Symptoms when it affects hormones
- Rapid heart rate
- High blood pressure
- Redness in the skin (2)
Symptoms when it spreads to other parts
Enlarged lymph nodes- lymph nodes get swelled up due to the spread of these cancerous cells to lymph vessels. You may feel them as hard lumps in the neck, armpits, and groin. It indicates towards infection that has happened due to cancerous cells. (1)
Bone pain- bone pain and weakness develop in the legs or arms when cancer cells travel to the bones. (1)
Bone marrow affections- when cancer affects the bone marrow, it causes a number of bruises in the body with infections. It makes a child irritable, tired, weak and frustrated all the time. (1)
Diagnostic tests help in confirming that your child is having neuroblastoma. They are-
Blood tests- it is done to measure the levels of hormones in the body.
Urine tests- it detects many abnormalities related to the kidney function in the urine.
Imaging tests- it helps to find out the spread of cancer to various parts of the body.
Ultrasound- it can detect the location and size of the tumors in the abdomen.
X rays- It finds out cancer in the chest and bones.
MRI or CT scans- it helps to find out the location of the tumors and track the right direction of the treatment.
Biopsy- this test is to study the actual structure of nerve cells through the sample.
Neuroblast cells develop in immature cells or neurons that are found in infants or young children. It grows in an uncontrolled manner forming a solid tumor. It starts from the adrenal gland which lies on the kidneys. It is also formed in the neck, chest, pelvis, and abdomen. It slowly progresses to skin, bones and lymph nodes. (2)
If your child has swelling in the abdomen, with pain, loss of appetite weight loss and others discussed above, it may indicate towards neuroblastoma. It develops when the neuroblast cells do not mature properly into nerve cells and grow invariably to form solid tumors. It can be confirmed by diagnostic tests such as blood test, urine test, ultrasound, chest X-rays, MRI or CT scan, and biopsy.
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