At some basic level, we all have an underlying fear of facing cancer in any form, from the identification of abnormal symptoms to the dreaded diagnosis of cancer, and then dealing with cancer treatments. Well, imagine being a mere child and facing the prospect of that same set of steps with Neuroblastoma.
Neuroblastoma stage 4 is a cancer that has spread to the body’s other areas – such as the bones, lymph nodes, bone marrow, liver, skin or potentially other vital organs.
If you are the parent of a child diagnosed with neuroblastoma in the fourth stage, read on for an overview of the disease, information on stage 4 and how the disease is treated.
Neuroblastoma is the most common form of cancer in infants and the third most typical cancer for children. However, there are only 650 cases of the disease diagnosed each year in the United States. Ninety percent of those cases are discovered in children under the age of 7.
A third of all neuroblastoma instances develop in the adrenal glands, and another third start in the sympathetic nervous system ganglia in the abdomen. The remaining cases typically start in the neck, chest or pelvis sympathetic ganglia regions.
With most cases of neuroblastoma, the five year survival rate for children under the age of 1 is an impressive 83%. For kids between 1 and 4, it’s 55% and for children 5 and older, only 40%.
But children with stage 4 neuroblastoma normally have much lower survival rates. They hover between 50% and 80% for infants (under a year old) and drop to 15% for children over the age of 1.
Treatment for Neuroblastoma Stage 4
Children at high risk, such as those diagnosed with stage 4 neuroblastoma, often require very intensive chemotherapy and possibly surgery, and stem cell transplants for marrow support. First, surgery is used to remove the tumor, but then chemotherapy must be employed for the remainder of the spread cancer cells.
In most cases, treatment involves a combination of medications. The main drugs used to treat children with neuroblastoma are cisplatin, vincristine, cyclophosphamide, etoposide and topotecan. These drugs produce a positive response in two thirds of children.
In certain cases, particularly when the cancer has spread too far to be completely removed by surgery – as is the case with the fourth stage of neuroblastoma – chemotherapy is the primary treatment.
Bone Marrow and Blood Stem Cell Transplants
Because high-dosage chemotherapy will wipe out bone marrow, new blood cells are no longer being developed, so children are at a high risk. Because kids diagnosed with stage 4 neuroblastoma must often undergo intense chemotherapy sessions, they should also be prepared for a bone marrow transplant and/or a secondary blood stem cell transplant.
Treatments of Radiation
Typically, radiation treatments are used as a final attempt to kill any remaining neuroblastoma stage 4 cells after surgery on an affected area.
However, with neuroblastoma stage 4, it’s rarely used unless in conjunction with chemotherapy or as a method of relieving the pain for children suffering from advanced cases of neuroblastoma.