Neuro-what?

So, one of my first questions when I first learned about Tuesday was, What is Neuroblastoma?

Obviously, it’s cancer, but what kind and what does it do and how is it treated?  I didn’t know, so I looked into it.

The American Cancer Society says that neuroblastoma occurs mainly in young  children and infants.  It is a form of cancer that starts in immature, developing nerve cells (“neuro” meaning nerves, “blastoma” meaning a cancer that affects immature cells.)  It can be found anywhere along the nervous system, either in the adrenal glands (1/3 of cases), or in the sympathetic nerve ganglia of the abdomen(1/3 of cases), chest, neck, or pelvis (the remaining 1/3 of cases.)   Sometimes, rarely, the cancer is so advanced that the doctors can’t tell where it started.  Tuesday’s cancer was initially found on her adrenal gland; it was a whopping 12.5 cm X 15.5 cm.

Neuroblastoma can behave in unusual ways.  Sometimes the cancer cells just die off, or mature into normal ganglion cells.

What causes it?  Good question. Doctors don’t really know.  Researchers have noticed a difference between the cancer cells and the neuroblasts, a normal cell that can turn into a cancer cell.  They have found out that differences in the cancer can lead to a different prognosis for a child.  Which, of course, can lead to different treatment options.

Treatment for neuroblastoma includes surgery, chemotherapy, radiation therapy, and/or retinoid therapy.  The age of the child and stage and specifics of the cancer determine the treatment route.  Tuesday had six rounds of chemotherapy and ten rounds of radiation, and she was slated for a bone marrow transplant (actually, they called this a stem cell rescue because they were planning to use her clean bone marrow tissues.)

The prognosis for a child with neuroblastoma depends on many factors: the stage of the cancer, the child’s age, and certain specifics of the child’s blood and the cancer’s tumors.  Tuesday’s cancer had been considered stage 4, which means that it had spread from her adrenal gland to other parts of her body.

The American Cancer Society also has these statistics about neuroblastoma:

  • It is the most common infant cancer
  • It is the 3rd most common childhood cancer
  • There are approximately 650 new cases per year
  • It is somewhat more common in boys than in girls
  • The child’s average age at diagnosis is 17 months (Tuesday was about 21 months old)
  • About 1/3 of cases are diagnosed by a child’s first birthday
  • About 90% of cases are diagnosed by a child’s fifth birthday
  • About 2% of cases are diagnosed in children over 10 years of age and adults
  • Rarely, it can be detected prenatally by ultrasound
  • About 70% of cases are not diagnosed until the cancer has spread (as in Tuesday’s case)

I hope you have been enjoying this look at all things Tuesday here this week.  I have a few more posts up my proverbial sleeve.  Is this interesting and informative to you?  Do you have any questions you’d like me to answer?  Leave me a comment and I’ll see what I can do. 🙂

And please, please, please . . . pretty please . . . hop over to Debi’s blog to see what is available on the give away list.  The money raised this week is going to support pediatric cancer research.  Perhaps one day there will be a cure for this terrible disease that has taken so many of our “Tuesdays.”

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3 Responses to “Neuro-what?”

  1. Melis, Max's Mom Says:

    Thank you for sharing thie information on neuroblastoma. It is almost always referred to as a very rare cancer, but as you just stated in your post, it is the 3rd most common cancer in kids – 7% of annual diagnosis. One thing you missed is that it also makes up for 15% of all cancer related deaths in children. One child every 16 hours. Isn’t that a terrible thought? Again, thank you for sharing this info on this terrible cancer.
    From a Mom who lost her seven year old Aug 31, 2008 to NB

  2. NMM: Tuesday’s Party Week « Purple Moose Tracks Says:

    […] Comments Melis, Max’s Mom on Neuro-what?BPS: Tuesday «… on A Sled-Wagie RideAlexis on NMM: Back To The Routine!heidi […]

  3. purplemoose Says:

    You are right. I didn’t look too closely into the number of children who die from cancers each year.

    I am so sorry that your son is one in this terrible number. 😦


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