Dr. Susan Cohn working with a neuroblastoma patient

What is neuroblastoma?

Childhood neuroblastoma is a solid, cancerous tumor that begins in the sympathetic nervous system. This type of tumor often is found in the abdomen, but can also be located in the neck, chest and/or pelvis. Most children with neuroblastoma are diagnosed before the age of five.

The Neuroblastoma Program at the University of Chicago Medicine Comer Children's Hospital is led by Susan Cohn, MD, one of the nation's foremost authorities on neuroblastoma. Under Dr. Cohn's leadership, a team of pediatric cancer experts provides comprehensive diagnoses and a wide range of advanced treatment options.

What are symptoms of neuroblastoma?

One of the most common symptoms is irritability from bone pain. Other common symptoms include swelling around the eyes with bruising, or a lump or swelling in the child’s abdomen or neck. Sometimes the tumor can affect other parts of the body by pressing on nerves and veins, which may cause swelling or pain. Additional symptoms may include weight loss or poor appetite, problems with bowel movements or urination, back pain, weakness in the legs, and anemia.

Are there risk factors associated with development of neuroblastoma?

In about 2% of cases, children inherit an increased risk of developing neuroblastoma from a parent. Also, some studies show that children who have a change in genes during fetal development, which may cause birth defects, may also have an increased risk of developing neuroblastoma. No environmental factors are known to increase the chance of getting neuroblastoma. Lifestyle factors also are not known to contribute to risk; body weight, activity and diet take years to influence cancer risk and, thus, do not play a role in childhood cancers.

Why are neuroblastoma patients classified by risk groups?

Neuroblastoma grows and reacts differently to treatment in different patients. By using a combination of factors, doctors usually can predict how clinically aggressive the tumor will be and tailor treatments accordingly. Clinical, pathologic and genetic markers are used to predict the clinical behavior of the tumor, how it will respond to treatment and survival. These factors are used to assign patients to risk groups (low, intermediate or high) and guide treatment decisions.

Are clinical trials available for pediatric cancers?

Yes, clinical trials are standard practice in cancer treatment for pediatric cancers. About 60% of children with cancer are enrolled in a trial, compared to less than 5% of adult patients. The results of previous clinical trials have led to new standards of care and improved survival for children with neuroblastoma. You may search online for neuroblastoma clinical trials at the University of Chicago Medicine Comer Children's Hospital.

At the forefront of childhood neuroblastoma therapies

In addition to offering unmatched experience and expertise in MIBG therapy, our physicians are very active in the Children's Oncology Group (COG), the New Approaches to Neuroblastoma Therapy (NANT) consortium and the Advances in Neuroblastoma Research Association. As a result, our patients have access to some of the latest treatments. Participation in these organizations also helps our physicians stay informed about advances in neuroblastoma care as they develop. In fact, our experts often are involved in improving current treatments and identifying options for tumors that do not respond to conventional therapies. Learn more about neuroblastoma research and clinical trials.

Research to improve neuroblastoma survivorship and quality of life

We understand that offering the most advanced childhood neuroblastoma treatments is important for delivering unparalleled care. Our physicians are also scientists, working to advance treatments for patients with neuroblastoma. With close cooperation between research and patient care activities, discoveries made in the lab can be translated into clinical advances that may improve treatment options for children with neuroblastoma.

Furthermore, we understand that your child's care does not end after their cancer is in remission and they have completed therapy. Our team of experts in the University of Chicago Medicine Childhood Cancer Survivors Center offers exceptional care to support your child and your family in managing the unique and complex health challenges that many neuroblastoma survivors experience after treatment. 

Our Pediatric Cancer Locations in Chicago and Merrillville

Request an Appointment

The information you provide on this secure form to request an appointment with a UChicago Medicine childhood neuroblastoma expert will enable us to assist you as efficiently as possible. A representative will contact you within one to two business days to help you schedule an appointment. 

You can also make an appointment with our providers by:

Scheduling a virtual video visit to see a provider from the comfort of your home

Requesting an online second opinion from our specialists

To speak to someone directly, please call 773-702-6169. If you have symptoms of an urgent nature, please call your doctor or go to the emergency room immediately.

For Referring Physicians

To refer a pediatric patient for care, please call UCM Physician Connect at 1-800-824-2282


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Childhood Neuroblastoma