Pediatric Neuroblastoma | Miami Cancer Institute | Baptist Health South Florida
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Pediatric Neuroblastoma

The diagnosis of any type of cancer in a child is difficult for all families. If your child has been diagnosed with neuroblastoma, a solid tumor cancer that forms in the nerve tissue, the healthcare team at Miami Cancer Institute will provide comprehensive, compassionate care and an individualized treatment plan.

Cervical cancer is cancer that starts in the cells of the cervix. The cervix is the lower, narrow part of the uterus that opens into the vagina. Most cervical cancers begin in an area called the transformation zone, where the inner part of the cervix closest to the uterus meets the outer part of cervix closest to the vagina.

Neuroblastoma is the most common solid tumor cancer in infants. It is often present at birth but not detected until the tumor begins to grow. Most children are diagnosed before the age of 5, and while it is rare to find neuroblastoma in an older child, it sometimes occurs in adults.

Neuroblastoma can begin in the nerve tissues of the chest, pelvis, neck or abdomen, but it is most commonly found in the tissues of the adrenal glands, which sit atop the kidneys and secrete hormones and chemicals that control the kidneys, heart, immune system and the growth of reproductive organs. Approximately 700 children in the U.S. are diagnosed each year with neuroblastoma.

Tumors can spread, or metastasize, quickly to other areas, including lymph nodes, bones, bone marrow, lungs and liver.

What causes neuroblastoma?

The cause of neuroblastoma is still being researched. In rare instances ― less than 2 percent of of the time ― there is a hereditary factor in the form of an altered gene passed down from a parent. This inherited neuroblastoma is often more aggressive than a neuroblastoma that occurs as an accident during the formation of the sympathetic nervous system. However, not everyone who inherits the gene will develop neuroblastoma.

What are the symptoms of neuroblastoma?

As with other cancers, symptoms vary from child to child. Your child may experience one or more of the following:

  • Swelling of the abdomen
  • Fever
  • Diarrhea or poor appetite
  • Swelling and bruising of the area around the eyes and uncontrolled eye movements or bulging eyes caused by tumors in the face or head
  • Changes in urination caused by compression of the kidney or bladder
  • Pain, fatigue, limping, paralysis or weakness caused by bone marrow involvement
  • High blood pressure and increased heart rate, depending on the location of the tumor
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​​​​There is a wide range of treatment options for children with neuroblastoma. To diagnose and better analyze your child’s condition ― and help determine the best treatment ― the doctor generally will complete a thorough medical history and may order a number of tests. Because there is no single way to treat cancer, your child’s testing and care plan may be very different from another child’s, even if they have the same type of cancer.

The most common tests for neuroblastoma are:

  • Blood and urine tests
  • Neurological exam
  • Imaging studies such as a CT scan, MRI, X-ray, ultrasound, bone scans and nuclear scans
  • Bone marrow aspiration and/or biopsy
  • Biopsy of the tumor

In order for physicians to develop the best treatment options, they must classify and stage the disease. Staging determines if the cancer has spread. Your Miami Cancer Institute healthcare team will provide you with more information on the staging of your child’s tumor and explain how that relates to his or her prognosis.

At Miami Cancer Institute, the comprehensive treatment of your child involves numerous specialists. You may see several pediatric physicians, oncologists, surgeons and radiation experts, as well as nurses, dietitians, therapists and social workers. We understand that this can be a confusing and stressful time for every family member, and we are here to help.

One of the most exciting advances in the fight against certain types of neuroblastoma is proton therapy. When the Proton Therapy Center opens at Miami Cancer Institute soon, it will be the only center of its kind in the region and one of only 14 in the United States. An advanced form of radiation treatment, proton therapy spares healthy tissue and eliminates many of the side effects of conventional radiation treatment (also known as photon or external beam radiation). While traditional X-rays pass through healthy tissue and organs on their way in and out of the body, protons travel through the body and release most of their energy inside a tumor. Using proton therapy reduces the risk of damage to bones and soft tissues, reduces side effects and decreases the odds of other tumors later in life, which makes it particularly good for treating childhood cancers.

Other treatments may include (alone or in combination):

  • Surgery to remove the tumor
  • Removal of lymph nodes
  • Chemotherapy
  • Radiation therapy – proton and photon
  • Stem cell transplantation
  • Every patient and every cancer is different so prognosis and long-term survival can vary greatly from child to child. Long-term follow-up care is important. The healthcare team at Miami Cancer Institute will work closely with you and your family to develop the best treatment plan for your child. ​