Early symptoms of neuroblastoma can mimic other common childhood illnesses

Usually, a tumor is detected after a child has shown various symptoms of neuroblastoma, making it important for parents to know and pay attention to the signs.

Neuroblastoma is a rare type of childhood cancer that starts in the nerve cells of the sympathetic nervous system, and usually affects infants and children under age 5. The average age of diagnosis is 18 months. Around 800 new cases of neuroblastoma are diagnosed in the U.S. each year.

Neuroblastoma can be difficult to diagnose

“In young children, neuroblastoma often is discovered after a parent or doctor feels an unusual lump or mass in the child’s body,” said Natalie F. Slone, D.O., pediatric hematologist/oncologist with Norton Children’s Cancer Institute, affiliated with the UofL School of Medicine. “Neuroblastoma may appear in the child’s abdomen, chest or neck, and the cancer can spread to the lymph nodes and other parts of the body.”

Neuroblastoma can be hard to diagnose in the early stages, since early signs can develop slowly or mimic symptoms of other common illnesses in children. It is important if your child exhibits any symptoms or changes in behavior to raise any concerns with your child’s provider.

Symptoms of neuroblastoma

The signs of neuroblastoma can vary, depending on which part of the body is affected.

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The first symptoms of neuroblastoma are often vague and may include:

  • Irritability
  • Pain
  • Constipation or diarrhea
  • A swollen belly
  • Being very tired
  • Loss of appetite, weight loss
  • Dark circles around the eyes
  • Weakness
  • Fever

If a tumor presses on nearby tissues or the cancer spreads to other areas, different symptoms can appear. Parents may palpate a mass in their child’s abdomen, which is the most common site of neuroblastoma in young children.

Other symptoms of neuroblastoma may include bone pain, or changes to the eyes, such as drooping eyelids or unequal pupil size.

Treatment and clinical trials

Treatment for neuroblastoma depends on the severity of the cancer and may include watchful waiting, surgery, chemotherapy, radiation, stem cell transplant and immunotherapy.

Patients of Norton Children’s Cancer Institute will have access to innovative new treatments for neuroblastoma through clinical trials conducted by our board-certified team of oncologists.

Neuroblastoma

Utilizing Response and Biology Based Risk Factors to Guide Therapy in Patients with Non-High Risk Neuroblastoma
Study Type: Drug Study
Ashok Raj, M.D.
Ashok Raj, M.D.
Principal Investigator
Norton Children's Cancer Institute,
affiliated with the UofL School of Medicine
Sponsor: Children's Oncology Group (COG)

Neuroblastoma

LEAHRN (Late Effects After High-Risk Neuroblastoma) Study
Study Type: Specimen Study
Kerry K. McGowan, M.D.
Kerry K. McGowan, M.D.
Principal Investigator
Norton Children's Cancer Institute,
affiliated with the UofL School of Medicine
Sponsor: Children's Oncology Group (COG)

Neuroblastoma

PEDS-PLAN – Pediatric Precision Laboratory Advanced Neuroblastoma Therapy (A Study Using Molecular Guided Therapy with Induction Chemotherapy followed by a Randomized Controlled Trial of standard immunotherapy with or without DFMO followed by DFMO maintenance for Subjects with Newly Diagnosed High-Risk Neuroblastoma)
Study Type: Drug Study
Ashok Raj, M.D.
Ashok Raj, M.D.
Principal Investigator
Norton Children's Cancer Institute,
affiliated with the UofL School of Medicine
Sponsor: Beat Childhood Cancer

Neuroblastoma

A Phase II Preventative Trial of DFMO as a Single Agent in Patients with High Risk Neuroblastoma in Remission (NMTT- Neuroblastoma Maintenance Therapy Trial Using Difluoromethylornithine (DFMO))
Study Type: Drug Study
Ashok Raj, M.D.
Ashok Raj, M.D.
Principal Investigator
Norton Children's Cancer Institute,
affiliated with the UofL School of Medicine
Sponsor: Beat Childhood Cancer

Neuroblastoma

A Phase 2 Randomized Study of Irinotecan/Temozolomide/Dinutuximab with or without Eflornithine (DFMO) (IND# 141913) in Children with Relapsed, Refractory or Progressive Neuroblastoma
Study Type: Drug Study
Ashok Raj, M.D.
Ashok Raj, M.D.
Principal Investigator
Norton Children's Cancer Institute,
affiliated with the UofL School of Medicine
Sponsor: Children's Oncology Group (COG)

Neuroblastoma

A Pilot Study of Dinutuximab in Combination with Irinotecan and Temozolomide in the PostConsolidation Setting for High-Risk Neuroblastoma
Study Type: Drug Study
Ashok Raj, M.D.
Ashok Raj, M.D.
Principal Investigator
Norton Children's Cancer Institute,
affiliated with the UofL School of Medicine
Sponsor: COG

Neuroblastoma

Neuroblastoma Biology Study
Study Type: Specimen Study
Ashok Raj, M.D.
Ashok Raj, M.D.
Principal Investigator
Norton Children's Cancer Institute,
affiliated with the UofL School of Medicine
Sponsor: Children's Oncology Group (COG)

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Norton Children's Cancer Institute – Novak Center

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