Let's start with the name:

  • neuro = nerves
  • blastoma = a cancer that affects immature or developing cells.

So, neuroblastomas are cancers that start in early nerve cells (called neuroblasts) of the sympathetic nervous system.

This means that tumours can be found anywhere along this system; most commonly (about 50%) start in the adrenal glands (above the kidney), or near the spine, chest, neck or pelvis. 

Rarely, a neuroblastoma has spread so widely by the time it is found, doctors can’t tell exactly where it started.

Some neuroblastomas grow and spread quickly, while others grow slowly.