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Neuroblastoma

  • What is Neuroblastoma?

    Neuroblastoma is one of the common childhood cancers. This type of cancer occurs most often in infants and young children. It is rarely found in children older than 10 years.

    Facts about neuroblastoma:

    • It is the most common solid tumour in children under the age of 5
    • It is the leading cause of cancer death in children under the age of 5
    • 1 out of 2 kids diagnosed with high-risk neuroblastoma survive
  • Neuroblastoma usually forms in nerve tissue and may be found in the adrenal gland, neck, chest, abdomen, spine or pelvis. The probability of inherited neuroblastoma is extremely low.

    Neuroblastoma is a malignant tumour that is usually aggressive. Its symptoms tend to show up at the advanced stage. At its early stage, the disease tends to be without symptoms. Most cases, if left untreated, will lead to life-threatening consequences.

  • Common symptoms include:

    • Lumps or swelling in the regions involved
    • Persistent fever
    • Bone pain
    • Swelling and bruising around the eyes and in the head

    An initial consultation with your family doctor or paediatrician when symptoms arise is highly recommended before referral to the relevant specialists (paediatric oncologist or paediatric surgical oncologist). Further tests usually include imaging scans (eg. ultrasonography, CT scan, MRI) and bone marrow tests.

  • Patients diagnosed with neuroblastoma undergo a set of evaluations before being assigned to a risk-group and the necessary treatment protocol. Specific to the needs of your child, our specialists will develop a customised chemotherapy plan.

    Low-risk neuroblastoma

    • Surgery
    • Chemotherapy

    High-risk neuroblastoma

    • Surgery
    • Chemotherapy
    • Stem cell transplantation
    • Radiation therapy

    Various combinations of surgery, chemotherapy, peripheral stem cell transplantation, radiotherapy and MIBG therapy may be recommended. Most children with neuroblastoma respond to chemotherapy. When it is not feasible to perform initial surgery to remove the tumour, chemotherapy is used as the first treatment instead.

    Neuroblastoma surgery is usually challenging because critical blood vessels are often encased or trapped within the tumour. Complete surgical resection may risk injury to these blood vessels, leading to organ damage. With improved surgical techniques and understanding of the biological characteristics of neuroblastoma, complete tumour removal can be achieved safely.

    Mount Elizabeth Hospitals offer a comprehensive neuroblastoma programme, including therapy with I-131 MIBG. This therapy delivers targeted radiation therapy to neuroblastoma cells to treat high risk, relapsed or refractory neuroblastoma.

    Patients can benefit from Mount Elizabeth Hospitals' advanced equipment and treatment facilities. Our team of specialists are known regionally for treating complex cases and delivering specialised treatments, including stem cell transplantation. Surgery is performed in close collaboration with paediatric oncologists, while new surgical techniques may enable a quicker and more pleasant recovery for children.

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