Neuroblastoma is a rare, malignant tumour arising from the embryological neural crest element of the peripheral sympathetic nervous system.
The most common extracranial solid tumour in children; the majority of patients are diagnosed by 5 years of age.
Diagnosis can usually be confirmed by urine catecholamines and imaging; however, biopsy of the primary site (or bone marrow for staging purposes) is required to establish biology (i.e., cytogenetics, pathology) and risk stratification.
Treatment depends primarily on risk classification and varies from observation alone for certain low-risk patients to intense multimodal therapy for high-risk patients.
Prognosis is excellent for patients with low-risk disease and poor for those with high-risk disease.
Relapsed or refractory (high-risk) disease is difficult to cure, and is associated with extremely low survival.
Neuroblastoma is a malignant tumour arising from the embryological neural crest element of the peripheral sympathetic nervous system. It most commonly arises from the adrenal gland(s), but can form anywhere that sympathetic nervous tissue is present, including paraspinal sympathetic ganglia in the chest and abdomen.
The term neuroblastoma is commonly used to describe a spectrum of neuroblastic tumours including neuroblastomas (the most common type), ganglioneuroblastomas, and ganglioneuromas.
History and exam
Key diagnostic factors
- presence of risk factors
- age <5 years
- abdominal distention
- abdominal mass
- decreased appetite
- weight loss
- fussiness (infants)
- periorbital ecchymosis (panda eyes)
- subcutaneous skin nodules
- signs of spinal cord compression
- signs of Horner's syndrome
- signs of superior vena cava syndrome
- intractable secretory diarrhoea
- opsoclonus-myoclonus ataxia (OMA)
Other diagnostic factors
- neurocristopathies or other syndromes
- family history of neuroblastic tumours or genetic predisposition
1st investigations to order
- serum electrolytes
- serum creatinine/urea
- liver function tests (LFTs)
- serum lactate dehydrogenase (LDH)
- urine catecholamines
- ultrasound abdomen
- CT scan
- MRI scan
Investigations to consider
- tumour biopsy
- bilateral bone marrow aspiration and biopsy
- serum vasoactive intestinal peptide (VIP)
- 123-iodine-metaiodobenzylguanidine (MIBG) scintigraphy
- positron emission tomography with 18-F-deoxyglucose (18F-FDG PET)
- radionuclide bone scan
relapsed or refractory disease
- Wilms' tumour
- Ewing's sarcoma
- Neuroblastoma treatment – Health Professional Version (PDQ)
- Suspected cancer: recognition and referral
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