Neuroblastoma is a disease in which malignant (cancer) cells form in nerve tissue of the adrenal gland, neck, chest, or spinal cord. Neuroblastoma is sometimes caused by a gene mutation (change) passed from the parent to the child. Signs and symptoms of neuroblastoma include bone pain and a lump in the abdomen, neck, or chest. Tests that examine many different body tissues and fluids are used to detect (find) and diagnose neuroblastoma. A biopsy is done to diagnose neuroblastoma. Certain factors affect prognosis (chance of recovery) and treatment options.
Neuroblastoma often begins in the nerve tissue of the adrenal glands. There are two adrenal glands, one on top of each kidney in the back of the upper abdomen. The adrenal glands make important hormones that help control heart rate, blood pressure, blood sugar, and the way the body reacts to stress. Neuroblastoma may also begin in the abdomen, in the chest, in nerve tissue near the spine in the neck, or in the spinal cord. Sometimes it forms before birth and is found during a fetal ultrasound. By the time neuroblastoma is diagnosed, the cancer has usually metastasized (spread). Neuroblastoma spreads most often to the lymph nodes, bones, bone marrow, liver, and in infants, skin.