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Neuroblastoma Screening (PDQ®)

Patient Version
Last Modified: 07/02/2014

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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Anatomy of the female urinary system; drawing shows a front view of the right and left kidneys, the ureters,  urethra, and bladder filled with urine. The inside of the left kidney shows the renal pelvis. An inset shows the renal tubules and urine. The spine, adrenal glands, and uterus are also shown.
Anatomy of the female urinary system showing the kidneys, adrenal glands, ureters, bladder, and urethra. Urine is made in the renal tubules and collects in the renal pelvis of each kidney. The urine flows from the kidneys through the ureters to the bladder. The urine is stored in the bladder until it leaves the body through the urethra.

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.