Symptoms of neuroblastoma

Neuroblastoma may not cause any signs or symptoms in its early stages. Signs and symptoms often appear once the tumour grows into surrounding tissues and will depend on the location of the tumour. Other health conditions can cause the same symptoms as neuroblastoma.

The most common signs and symptoms of neuroblastoma include:

  • a lump in the abdomen
  • a feeling of fullness or swelling in the abdomen
  • bulging of the eyes
  • dark circles around the eyes
  • bone pain
  • low levels of all 3 types of blood cells (called pancytopenia)
  • lumps or bumps in the skin that are sometimes blue
  • diarrhea
  • high blood pressure
  • fever
  • anemia
  • difficulty feeling or moving part of the body
  • a drooping eyelid and small pupil

Neuroblastoma can cause many different signs and symptoms depending on where it is in the body.

Neuroblastoma in the chest can cause chest pain, difficulty breathing, shortness of breath or cough.

Neuroblastoma in the neck can cause a lump in the neck or difficulty breathing.

Neuroblastoma affecting the spinal cord can cause weakness in the legs, difficulty walking, loss of bowel or bladder control and spinal cord compression.

Spinal cord compression is a medical emergency that needs to be treated right away. It occurs when a tumour puts pressure on the spinal cord. The pressure may cause swelling and sometimes the blood supply to the spinal cord and nerves is affected. Spinal cord compression can lead to permanent paralysis if not treated early. Find out more about spinal cord compression.

Expert review and references

  • American Cancer Society. Neuroblastoma. Atlanta, GA: 2014:
  • American Society of Clinical Oncology. Neuroblastoma. 2014.
  • Bartholomew, J . Neuroblastoma. Baggott C, Fochtman D, Foley GV & Patterson Kelly, K (eds.). Nursing Care of Children and Adolescents with Cancer and Blood Disorders. 4th ed. APHON; 2011: 30: pp. 1038-1053.
  • Cancer Research UK. Neuroblastoma. Cancer Research UK; 2014.
  • Joyner, BD. Neuroblastoma. WebMD LLC; 2012.
  • Lacayo NJ. Medscape: Pediatric Neuroblastoma Clinical Presentation. WebMD LLC; 2012.
  • Lacayo, NJ. Pediatric neuroblastoma. WebMD LLC; 2012.
  • National Cancer Institute. Neuroblastoma Treatment (PDQ®) Health Professional Version. Bethesda, MD: National Cancer Institute; 2014.
  • National Cancer Institute. Neuroblastoma Treatment (PDQ®) Patient Version. Bethesda, MD: National Cancer Institute; 2014.