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Neuroblastoma Diagnosis

Neuroblastoma can be difficult to diagnose. The highly specialized experts at MD Anderson Children’s Cancer Hospital have a deep level of experience and the most advanced technology to pinpoint the disease. This helps deliver the most-effective treatments with the least impact on your child’s body.

Since neuroblastoma often has few symptoms, it may spread (metastasize) to other parts of the body before it is found. In early stages, it sometimes is found during routine examinations. Neuroblastoma is rarely found on an ultrasound before a baby is born.

Neuroblastoma diagnostic tests

If your child’s doctor suspects your child might have neuroblastoma, the first step will be a complete physical examination. The doctor will ask you questions about your child’s health.

One or more of the following diagnostic tests may be used to find out if your child has neuroblastoma and if it has spread. These tests also may be used to find out if treatment is working.

Imaging tests

One of several imaging methods can be used to diagnose neuroblastoma, including:

  • CT (computed tomography) scans
  • MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) scans
  • MIBG scan. A chemical called MIBG with radioactive iodine is injected into a vein. As it moves through the body, images are taken with a special camera.
  • X-rays
  • Bone scans
  • Ultrasound
  • PET (positive emission tomography) scans


If a tumor is seen on imaging tests, a biopsy will be done to confirm it is neuroblastoma. In a biopsy, the doctor removes a small amount of cells to look at with a microscope.

A biopsy for neuroblastoma is usually done one of the following ways:

  • Surgery: An incision (cut) is made in the skin close to the tumor and cells from the tumor are removed.
  • Needle biopsy: A thin, hollow needle is inserted into the tumor. Suction is applied to remove a small amount of tissue. If a tumor is difficult to reach, a CT scan may be used help guide the needle.

Bone marrow aspiration and biopsy

Blood and urine tests

Getting a second opinion at Children's Cancer Hospital

The pediatric cancer experts at Children’s Cancer Hospital welcome the opportunity to provide second opinions for neuroblastoma.

If you would like to get a second opinion at Children’s Cancer Hospital, call 877-632-6789 to make an appointment or request an appointment online.

Clinical Trials

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Knowledge Center

Find the latest news and information about neuroblastoma in our Knowledge Center, including blog posts, articles, videos, news releases and more.