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Neuroblastoma

May 6, 2015 -

Neuroblastomas are cancers that start in early nerve cells (called neuroblasts) of the sympathetic nervous system, so they can be found anywhere along this system.

A little more than 1 out of 3 neuroblastomas start in the adrenal glands. About 1 out of 4 begin in sympathetic nerve ganglia in the abdomen. Most of the rest start in sympathetic ganglia near the spine in the chest or neck, or in the pelvis.

Rarely, a neuroblastoma has spread so widely by the time it is found that doctors can’t tell exactly where it started.

There is a wide range in how neuroblastomas behave. Some grow and spread quickly, while others grow slowly. Sometimes, in very young children, the cancer cells die for no reason and the tumor goes away on its own. In other cases, the cells sometimes mature on their own into normal ganglion cells and stop dividing. This makes the tumor a ganglioneuroma.

Not all childhood autonomic nervous system tumors are malignant (cancerous).

Ganglioneuroma is a benign (non-cancerous) tumor made up of mature ganglion and nerve sheath cells.

Ganglioneuroblastoma is a tumor that has both malignant and benign parts. It contains neuroblasts (immature nerve cells) that can grow and spread abnormally, similar to neuroblastoma, as well as areas of more mature tissue that are similar to ganglioneuroma.

Ganglioneuromas are usually removed by surgery and looked at carefully under a microscope to be sure they don’t have areas of malignant cells (which would make the tumor a ganglioneuroblastoma). If the final diagnosis is ganglioneuroma, no other treatment is needed. If it’s found to be a ganglioneuroblastoma, it’s treated the same as a neuroblastoma.

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