Neuroblastoma is a cancer that develops from immature nerve cells found in several areas of the body. Neuroblastoma most commonly arises in and around the adrenal glands, which have similar origins to nerve cells and sit atop the kidneys.
Neuroblastoma can also develop in other areas of the abdomen and in the chest, neck and near the spine, where groups of nerve cells exist.
The symptoms depend on where the cancer is and whether it has spread. It’s often hard to diagnose a neuroblastoma in the early stages, as initial symptoms are common ones.
A relatively late sign is a lump or swelling in the abdomen, as this is where the cancer commonly starts. This is easy to miss in a young child. This lump can cause constipation and difficulty passing urine, as well as general pain and discomfort.
- Bone pain
- Lump in the abdomen, neck or chest
- Painless bluish lump under the skin
- Pale skin, bruising, bleeding and frequent infections, if the cancer has affected the bone marrow
- numbness , weakness or loss of movement in the child’s lower body, if the cancer has affected the spinal cord.
Neuroblastoma typically occurs due to a genetic mutation occuring during early development. It may also be due to a mutation inherited from a person’s parents, although it is rare.
Treatment and outcomes depends on the risk group a person is in. Treatments may include observation, surgery, radiation, chemotherapy, or stem cell transplantation. Low-risk disease in babies typically has a good outcome with surgery or simply observation.
In high-risk disease, chances of long term survival, however, are less than 40%, despite aggressive treatment.
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