Neuroblastoma, an aggressive cancerous tumour affecting infants and young children, begins in the sympathetic nerve tissues, or the nerves responsible for the body’s emergency “fight or flight” response. In the UK, approximately 100 children are diagnosed with neuroblastoma each year. It is the most common tumour found in children younger than 1 year of age.

Although these tumours may be present at birth, they often aren’t detected until they’ve grown and compressed surrounding organs or have spread to lymph nodes, bones, the central nervous system or bone marrow. In rare cases, neuroblastoma can be detected before birth by a fetal ultrasound.

The most common symptoms of neuroblastoma are caused by pressure from the tumour or bone pain from cancer that has spread to the bone and bone marrow. Symptoms may include:

* Protruding eyes and dark circles around the eyes caused by cancer that has spread to the area behind the eye

* Paralaysis from neuroblastoma that compresses the spinal cord

* Fever, anaemia and high blood pressure are occasionally experienced

Other less common symptoms include:

* Severe diarrhea

* Uncoordinated or jerky muscle movements

* Uncontrollable eye movement

Symptoms also may include:

* A firm mass in the abdomen

* Difficulty breathing

* Weight loss

* Fever

* Bone pain

* Difficulty swallowing