Neuroblastoma - Childhood: Symptoms and Signs

This section has been reviewed and approved by the Cancer.Net Editorial Board, 04/2014

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.

Children with neuroblastoma may experience the following symptoms or signs. 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.  

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 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 (low level of red blood cells) sometimes occur.
  • Neuroblastoma is one of the few cancers in children that releases hormones, causing symptoms such as constant diarrhea or high blood pressure.
  • Rarely, patients can have rotating movements of the eyes and sudden muscle jerks. These symptoms are likely from immune system problems caused by the disease.

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 helps explain what tests and scans may be needed to learn more about the cause of the symptoms. Use the menu on the side of your screen to select Diagnosis, or you can select another section, to continue reading this guide.