Neuroblastoma is a rare cancer that mostly affects young children. It develops from nerve cells called neuroblasts. These cells are found in a chain running down the back of the chest and stomach. In many cases, neuroblastoma first develops in the adrenal glands (the two small glands above the kidneys) and can spread to other areas such as the bones, liver and skin. Neuroblastoma affects around 100 children each year in the UK. It usually affects children under the age of five, and can even occur before a child is born. In the last decades, prognosis of children with neuroblastoma has improved only slightly.
Traditional estimates of survival reflect the survival experience of children diagnosed many years ago, and may thus not capture more recent progress in prognosis. We applied a new method of survival analysis, denoted period analysis, to provide more up-to-date estimates of long-term prognosis. We selected the cases diagnosed before the German neuroblastoma screening project in 1995, allowing to assess the method by comparing the 1994 projected survival estimates with the observations made today. The symptoms depend on where the cancer is and whether it has spread. It's often hard to diagnose neuroblastoma in the early stages, as initial symptoms are common ones for example, aches and pains, loss of energy and loss of appetite.