Neuroblastoma is a solid tumor that usually develops in the nerve tissue of the adrenal glands, located on the top of each kidney. Tumors are sometimes also found in the pelvis, neck or chest. Neuroblastoma can spread to the chest, bones and bone marrow. Typically, by the time neuroblastoma is diagnosed, the spreading has already begun. Neuroblastoma is typically diagnosed under the age of 5 years old and makes up approximately 7.5 percent of all childhood cancers.

The neural crest cells that form the adrenal glands transition from immature to mature cells. The immature cells are called neuroblasts. When a mutation, or mistake, occurs during this transition from immature to mature cells, a neuroblastoma can develop. When that happens, the cells fail to complete the cycle into a mature cell and multiply rapidly, forming a mass or tumor.

Many factors affect recovery rate and treatment options:

  • Age of Child
    Neuroblastoma typically begins in very early childhood. In some rare cases, neuroblastoma may be discovered during a fetal ultrasound.
  • Stage of Cancer
    Symptoms will vary, depending on the location of the tumor and the spread of the cancer. Many times, by the time neuroblastoma is diagnosed, it has already spread. It will often be undetected until growth creates symptoms. As with all cancers, the sooner it is diagnosed, the higher the chance of recovery.
  • Tumor Location
    The most common location is the adrenal glands above the kidney. Often, by the time the diagnosis is made, the tumor has metastasized, or spread, to other areas, including bone marrow.
  • Tumor Biology
    The biology, or makeup, of the neuroblastoma is said to be favorable or unfavorable. Favorable tumor biology has a higher rate of recovery. Factors such as shape, function, structure, pattern, speed of growth and chromosomes in the tumor cells all affect the tumor biology.