Neuroblastoma is a form of cancer typically found in young children. It is a disease of the sympathetic nervous system, which controls activities such as heart rate and blood pressure. Neuroblastoma most often occurs in one of the adrenal glands, but it also can occur in other areas in and near the abdomen, neck, chest, or pelvis. It is most common in children younger than 5 years old.

The exact cause of neuroblastoma is unknown. Neuroblastoma is thought to develop due to changes in certain genes in the developing cells. These gene changes may happen before birth or after birth.

A diagnosis of neuroblastoma usually begins with physical examination and history. Imaging tests, such as an X-ray, ultrasound, MRI, or PET scan is done to confirm the diagnosis and guide treatment. Other tests, such as CT scans and bone marrow tests are performed to evaluate the spread of the tumour. Blood tests and genetic tests are also used to determine the type and extent of the cancer.

Treatment options for neuroblastoma vary based on certain criteria. These include the age of the patient, the size of the tumour, the tumour’s biological behaviour, and the extent of the spread of the tumour. Some treatments involve chemotherapy, radiation, surgery, and stem cell transplant. Other options may involve immunotherapy, targeted therapy, and clinical trials.


The prognosis for neuroblastoma depends on a variety of factors. These include the stage and biology of the tumour, the age of the patient, the response to treatment, and the presence of certain risk factors. Generally, the younger the patient and the more aggressive the tumour, the poorer the prognosis.


Neuroblastoma is difficult to prevent, as the cause is unknown. However, some measures can be taken to reduce the risk. For instance, pregnant women should take prenatal vitamins, which may help reduce the risk. Also, not smoking during pregnancy can help reduce the risk of a child developing many types of cancer, including neuroblastoma.


Neuroblastoma can cause a variety of complications, some of which can be long-term. These include:

  • Chronic pain
  • Metabolic imbalances
  • Learning difficulties
  • Organ issues stemming from long-term treatments
  • Hearing, vision, speech, or motor skill deficits
  • Developmental delays
  • Bone deformities