Neuroblastoma Symptoms & Survival Rates


Symptoms of neuroblastoma, a cancer of the nerve tissue that occurs almost exclusively in children younger than 5 years of age, range from bags around the eyes to diarrhea, depending on where tumors have formed---with the abdomen and chest being frequent locations. Survival rates among children depend on the cancer's stage and risk score.

Abdominal Symptoms

  • Children whose neuroblastomas form in the abdomen may develop a visible lump on the stomach that does not hurt when pressed, severe diarrhea and swollen legs. An abdominal neuroblastoma may also cause a child to lose weight and urinate frequently.

Chest Symptoms

  • A neuroblastoma in the chest can cause shortness of breath, drooping eyelids and fever.

Other Symptoms

  • Less-common symptoms of neuroblastoma that can appear when the cancer spreads to the bones, spine or nerves include anemia, bone pain, bruising, limb weakness and swelling of the face and throat.

Neuroblastoma Staging

  • Neuroblastomas can progress through four stages. In Stage 1, the cancer remains localized and can be completely removed by surgery. Stage 2 and 3 neuroblastomas also stay localized but either involve the lymph nodes or cannot be entirely removed during surgery. In Stage 4, the cancer has spread throughout the body or has been found in a child younger than 12 months old.

Risk Factors

  • In addition to stage, specialists assign each neuroblastoma a risk level of low, intermediate or high. Neuroblastomas that have spread widely and produced tumors with large numbers of irregular cells get classified as high risk.

Five-Year Survival Rates

  • Ninety-five percent of children with low-risk Stage 1 neuroblastomas survive for more than five years after being diagnosed and treated. Just 30 percent of children with high-risk Stage 4 neuroblastomas survive for at least five years.

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  • Photo Credit National Institute on Drug Abuse
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