According to the American Cancer Society, about 700 cases of neuroblastoma are diagnosed each year in the United States. This accounts for about 7% of pediatric cancers.
The most common cancer in infants, neuroblastoma is the fourth most common in all children. It almost always develops before age 5, and the average age of diagnosis is between 1 and 2 years. Occasionally, it can be seen in an ultrasound before a baby is born.
Neuroblastoma forms in the developing nerve cells, or neurons, of the sympathetic nervous system. The sympathetic nervous system is part of the autonomic nervous system, which helps control many body functions such as breathing, blood pressure, heart rate and digestion.
Most neuroblastomas develop in the adrenal glands, abdomen or nerve cells next to the spinal cord, called ganglia. They also can occur in the neck, chest or spine.
Some neuroblastomas grow quickly; others grow slowly. When neuroblastoma develops in infancy, it often is less aggressive and can even become benign. In children over 18 months, it tends to be more dangerous.
If neuroblastoma grows in the process of treatment, it is called progressive neuroblastoma. If it comes back after treatment, it is called recurrent neuroblastoma. The pediatric cancer specialists at Children’s Cancer Hospital have an exceptional level of expertise in treating all forms of neuroblastoma.
In rare cases, neuroblastoma can be passed down from one generation to the next. Genetic counseling may be right for you. Visit our genetic testing page to learn more.