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Neuroblastoma Screening (PDQ®)

  • Last Modified: 08/28/2014

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General Information About Neuroblastoma Cancer



Neuroblastoma is a disease in which malignant (cancer) cells form in nerve tissue.

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, chest, spinal cord, or in nerve tissue near the spine in the neck.

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Drawing shows parts of the body where neuroblastoma may be found, including the paraspinal nerve tissue and the adrenal glands. Also shown are the spine and right and left kidney.
Neuroblastoma may be found in the adrenal glands and paraspinal nerve tissue from the neck to the pelvis.

Neuroblastoma most often begins during early childhood, usually in children younger than 5 years of age.

See the PDQ summary on Neuroblastoma Treatment for more information about neuroblastoma.

Most cases of neuroblastoma are diagnosed before 1 year of age.

Neuroblastoma is the most common type of cancer in infants. The number of new cases of neuroblastoma is greatest among children under 1 year of age. As children get older, the number of new cases decreases. Neuroblastoma is slightly more common in males than females.

Neuroblastoma sometimes forms before birth but is usually found later, when the tumor begins to grow and cause symptoms. In rare cases, neuroblastoma may be found before birth, by fetal ultrasound.

The risk factors for neuroblastoma are not known.