Neuroblastoma - Childhood: Symptoms and Signs

Approved by the Cancer.Net Editorial Board, 06/2022

ON THIS PAGE: You will find out more about changes and other things that can signal a problem that may need medical care. Use the menu to see other pages.

Children with neuroblastoma may experience the following symptoms or signs. Symptoms are changes that you can feel in your body. Signs are changes in something measured, like by taking your blood pressure or doing a lab test. Together, symptoms and signs can help describe a medical problem. Sometimes, children with neuroblastoma do not have any of the symptoms and signs described below. Or, the cause of a symptom or sign may be 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. Bone pain may cause the child to limp, stop walking, or become unable to walk. Other symptoms may include:

  • A lump or mass in the abdomen, chest, neck, or pelvis

  • 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

  • Changes in bowel or bladder function

  • 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

If you are concerned about any changes your child experiences, 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 figure out the cause of the problem, called a diagnosis. 

If neuroblastoma is diagnosed, relieving symptoms remains an important part of care and treatment. Managing symptoms may also be called "palliative care" or "supportive care." It is often started soon after diagnosis and continued throughout treatment. Be sure to talk with the health care team about the symptoms your child experiences, including any new symptoms or a change in symptoms.

The next section in this guide is Diagnosis. It explains what tests may be needed to learn more about the cause of the symptoms. Use the menu to choose a different section to read this guide.