Neuroblastoma Treatment

Microscopic view of a
typical neuroblastoma

Considered a childhood cancer since nearly 90 percent of cases are diagnosed by age five 1, neuroblastoma is a cancer that starts in the developing nerve cells that are typically found in a fetus or embryo, eventually causing a tumor to form in the adrenal gland, chest, neck or spinal cord. While there are only 650 new cases of neuroblastoma diagnosed each year in the United States, it is the most common form of cancer in infants, or children under the age of one.1

Signs or symptoms of this cancer include a lump in the abdomen, neck or chest as well as bone pain. When neuroblastoma is diagnosed, it usually has already metastasized or spread to other parts of the body such as the bone, bone marrow, liver, lymph nodes and/or skin.

Treatment options for neuroblastoma largely depend on the location and size of the tumor, but may include one or more of the following:

In order to remove as much of the tumor as possible and to check to see if the cancer has spread to other parts of the body, surgery is usually the first line treatment for neuroblastoma. If the tumor is very small, surgery may be the only treatment option needed.
Radiation Therapy
External or internal radiation therapy can be used to treat some cases of neuroblastoma, but is usually avoided because of long-term side effects that affect children for the remainder of their lives.
Chemotherapy may be given prior to surgery in order to shrink the tumor so it is easier to be removed, or after surgery in order to kill any cancerous cells left behind. If the tumor is too large for surgery, chemotherapy is typically the first treatment option for neuroblastoma.
This is a type of treatment that uses the body’s own immune system to attack the cancer cells causing neuroblastoma.
Bone Marrow or Peripheral Blood Stem Cell Transplant
This form of treatment occurs when high doses of chemotherapy or radiation are given to destroy bone marrow cells (where blood cells develop) and then are replaced with healthy stem cells, which form new blood cells, previously removed from the bone marrow or blood of the patient or a donor. This form of therapy is usually reserved for neuroblastoma that has not responded to other standard treatments.


  1. American Cancer Society. Neuroblastoma Detailed Guide. Accessed on October 10, 2010.


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