Neuroblastoma is a type of solid tumor occurring in the nervous system.
What Is a Tumor?
Cells make up all the tissues and organs in the human body. With cells are genetic material (DNA) which tell the cells what to do. DNA sends messages to cells telling them when to divide and when to die. Cancer occurs when DNA gives incorrect instructions to a cell. In a cancerous cell, the DNA is damaged. These cells grow uncontrollably, divide when they shouldn’t and live longer than they should. A lump of these cells is called a tumor. A tumor can be either: a) malignant (growing quickly and often spread) or b) benign (slow to grow and not spreading).
How Neuroblastoma Occurs:
This type of tumour happens in developing cells of the sympathetic nervous system. This is the nerve system that transports messages throughout the body. All involuntary actions are performed by the sympathetic nervous system. This includes heart rate, dilating of the pupils, etc.
When a young cell of the sympathetic nervous system mutates neuroblastoma occurs. A young cell is called neuroblast. When this change occurs, the neuroblasts grow uncontrollably and create cancerous tumours.
How Is Neuroblastoma Treated?
Each cancer is treated differently, as is each individual case. Oncologists and specialists work with the parents to create a specific treatment plan for each case. Factors include: child’s age, the stage of cancer, child’s overall health, and risk group of the neuroblastoma. Risk group is indicated at high risk to, immediate or low risk, based on the likely hood that the cancer will come back or reoccur after treatment).
Treatment options MAY* include one or more of the following:
- Surgery – performed to remove the tumour.
- Chemotherapy – a medicine that stops cells from growing or by destroying cells. There are several types of chemotherapy medicines, which stop the growth of cells or destroy these cells in a different way.
- Radiation therapy – delivered either externally or internally, this form of therapy is when high energy beams are given to damage DNA and destroy rapidly growing cells. It is delivered to a specific part of the body, as opposed to the whole body (which is the case in chemotherapy).
- Other treatments may include a stem cell transplant, retinoid and immunotherapy.
- Approximately 7 out of everyone 100 children diagnosed with cancer have neuroblastoma.
- Usually occurring in infants and young children, neuroblastoma is uncommon in older children and teens.
- Neuroblastoma is most commonly found in the adrenal gland, located on top of the kidney.
- Other common locations include the neck, chest, abdomen, and pelvis, near the spine.
- Neuroblastoma can be found anywhere in the body and can spread to places such as bone marrow, bones, and lymph nodes.
If your family or someone you know is facing childhood cancer, call us at 403 216 9210 or email us to learn more about our resources and services available.