Neuroblastoma - Childhood: Symptoms and Signs

Approved by the Cancer.Net Editorial Board, 03/2015

ON THIS PAGE: You will find out more about body changes and other things that can signal a problem that may need medical care. To see other pages, use the menu on the side of your screen.

Many symptoms of neuroblastoma are caused by pressure from the tumor or bone pain if the cancer has spread to the bones. Pain may cause the child to limp, refuse to walk, or become unable to walk. Other symptoms may include:

  • A lump or mass in the abdomen, chest, neck, or pelvis, often found by a parent when bathing the child

  • Skin lesions or nodules under the skin with blue or purple patches

  • Eyes that bulge out and dark circles under the eyes, if the cancer has spread behind the eyes

  • Changes in the eyes, such as black eyes, a droopy eyelid, a pupil that is constricted, vision problems, or changes in the color of the iris

  • Pain in the chest, difficulty breathing, or a persistent cough

  • Pain in the arms, legs, or other bones

  • Pain in the back, or weakness, numbness, or paralysis of the legs if the tumor has spread to the spinal cord

  • Fever and anemia, which is a low level of red blood cells

  • Constant diarrhea or high blood pressure caused by hormones released by the tumor

  • Rotating movements of the eyes and sudden muscle jerks, likely from immune system problems caused by the disease

Sometimes, children with neuroblastoma do not show any of these symptoms. Or, these symptoms may be caused by a medical condition that is not cancer.          

If you are concerned about one or more of the symptoms or signs on this list, please talk with your child’s doctor. Your doctor will ask how long and how often your child has been experiencing the symptom(s), in addition to other questions. This is to help find out the cause of the problem, called a diagnosis.

If neuroblastoma is diagnosed, relieving symptoms remains an important part of care and treatment. This may also be called symptom management, palliative care, or supportive care. Be sure to talk with the health care team about symptoms your child experiences, including any new symptoms or a change in symptoms.

The next section in this guide is Diagnosis and it explains what tests may be needed to learn more about the cause of the symptoms. Or, use the menu on the side of your screen to choose another section to continue reading this guide.