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Neuroblastoma Diagnosis

Neuroblastoma can be difficult to diagnose. Unfortunately, many patients have widespread disease at the time of diagnosis. The cancer most commonly metastasizes (spreads) to the lymph nodes, liver, bones and bone marrow.

Tests to diagnose and evaluate children with neuroblastoma are used to find the precise location of the tumor and to see whether it has spread. These tests may include

  • MRI or CT scans
  • Bone scans
  • MIBG scans
  • Ultrasound
  • Bone marrow tests
  • Urine and blood tests

A biopsy provides a conclusive diagnosis.

Second Opinions at MD Anderson

The pathologists at MD Anderson are highly specialized in diagnosing and staging neuroblastoma, and we welcome the opportunity to provide second opinions.

If you would like to get a second opinion at MD Anderson, call 1-877-632-6789 to make an appointment or request an appointment online.

Why Choose MD Anderson?

  • The Children’s Cancer Hospital is within the No. 1 cancer center in America
  • Access to novel therapies and state-of-the-art technologies before most children’s hospitals
  • We see more types of cancer than any other children’s hospital in Texas
  • Family-centered care that actively involves parents in their child’s treatment
  • A strong cancer research program focused on developing new therapies for pediatric patients
  • Comprehensive support services such as an accredited school program, creative arts, child life and career counseling
  • An Adolescent and Young Adult Program that specializes in the unique medical and psychological needs of patients aged 15-25

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Childhood Neuroblastoma Staging

(source: National Cancer Institute)

The process used to find out the extent or spread of cancer is called staging. The information gathered from the staging process helps determine the stage of the disease. For childhood neuroblastoma, stage is one of the factors used to plan treatment.

The following stages are used for neuroblastoma:

Stage 1: The tumor is in only one area and all of the tumor that can be seen is completely removed during surgery.

Stage 2: is divided into stage 2A and 2B: 

  • Stage 2A: The tumor is in only one area and all of the tumor that can be seen cannot be completely removed during surgery.
  • Stage 2B: The tumor is in only one area and all of the tumor that can be seen may be completely removed during surgery. Cancer cells are found in the lymph nodes near the tumor.

Stage 3: One of the following is true:

  • the tumor cannot be completely removed during surgery and has spread from one side of the body to the other side and may also have spread to nearby lymph nodes; or
  • the tumor is in only one area, on one side of the body, but has spread to lymph nodes on the other side of the body; or
  • the tumor is in the middle of the body and has spread to tissues or lymph nodes on both sides of the body, and the tumor cannot be removed by surgery.

Stage 4: is divided into stage 4 and stage 4S: 

  • In stage 4, the tumor has spread to distant lymph nodes, the skin, or other parts of the body.
  • In stage 4S, the following are true:
    • the child is younger than 1 year; and
    • the cancer has spread to the skin, liver, and/or bone marrow; and
    • the tumor is in only one area and all of the tumor that can be seen may be completely removed during surgery; and/or
    • cancer cells may be found in the lymph nodes near the tumor.

If your child has been diagnosed with neuroblastoma, we’re here to help. Call 1-877-632-6789 to make an appointment or request an appointment online.


© 2014 The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center