“No matter what the statistics say, there is always a way.” ~ Bernie Siegel
One day my friend was bathing her 8-month-old when she found a protruding mass on her stomach. She did not find it normal and rushed her little one to the hospital. After many tests, it was found that she had a tumour which affected only infants. My friend was taken aback but she did not lose hope. It was difficult to see her undergo surgery and other procedures but she remained strong for her daughter. After all, no one else will ever know the strength of her love for her child. Her child is the only one who knows what her heart sounds like from the inside. Today she is remission free and together they have defeated the “Dreaded C”.
In one of my posts, I had discussed Leukaemia, a childhood cancer. Yet again I am going to talk about another cancer in children. Many of us are not even aware of Neuroblastoma but it is common in children who are under 1 year of age.
As we all know that cancer happens when the abnormal cells begin to outgrow the normal cells. Cancer can happen in any part of the body and worse is that this spreads to the other parts. In neuroblastoma, neuro means nerves and blastoma means cancer. Thus this form of cancer start in the nerve cells also referred to as neuroblast. In a normal person, these immature nerve cells transform into functioning cells. However, in neuroblastoma they become cancer. Sometimes the tumour may be present even before the child is born but is not diagnosed until later.
Neuroblastoma starts in the tissues of the adrenal gland. These glands are present on the kidneys. It can also be found near the abdomen, neck, spine and chest. Almost 98% of cases of neuroblastoma are not inherited while a few children may get it from their parents. This cancer is more in boys as compared to girls.
The symptoms of neuroblastoma are different depending upon when the tumour first started, to which parts it has spread and how much has it grown. Neuroblastoma is difficult to diagnose since the initial symptoms are fever, tiredness, irritability and loss of appetite. These symptoms are very similar to other common childhood illnesses. Other symptoms of neuroblastoma come into light when the tumour presses against tissue or it has spread.
The signs to watch out for are:
- If the tumour is in the abdomen then it may lead to swelling and pain in the stomach along with a loss of appetite.
- When cancer spreads to the bone it leads to pale skin, blue eyes, bruises, soreness and pain in bones.
- When the tumour presses against the spinal cord it develops numbness, inability to walk and weakness.
- If the tumour is in the neck then signs of drooping eyelids, sweating, red skin and unequal pupils are visible.
- In case the cancer is in the chest then difficult breathing can be observed.
All these symptoms can be visible along with fever and irritability.
To rule out neuroblastoma a child has to undergo certain tests like a blood test, urine test, biopsy, CT scan, MRI, ultrasound, and bone scan. These help in assessing the size, location and the stage of the tumour.
Treatment of neuroblastoma is usually categorised in three groups – low risk, intermediate risk and high risk. Children who fall under the low and intermediate risk have high chances of being cured. However, those who fall under high risk have bleak chances. Treatment usually involves surgery, wherein the tumour is removed, followed by radiation and chemotherapy. Some children may need a stem cell transplantation in case the tumour has spread.
Retinoid therapy is another treatment which is being used these days. It is believed that retinoids cure neuroblastoma by uplifting the cancer cells to turn to mature nerve cells. This treatment is done when all the other treatments are done as it prevents the cancer cells from growing back.
While researching for this post I came across the case of 11-year-old Bhumi Prajapati. When she was 3, she had been diagnosed with stage four neuroblastoma. She had very slim chances of survival. Her parents still opted for treatment which comprised of high dose of chemo followed by bone marrow transplant. Today after eight years she is cancer free and has travelled to Russia to participate in Special Olympics, where she has won laurels for rifle shooting and swimming.
I agree it could be devastating to learn that your child has neuroblastoma and there may be times when you may feel helpless. But the best thing is to give in your 100 per cent and educate yourself about neuroblastoma. This definitely gives you a better chance to look at the treatment options. Keep faith in God all will be well. And yes, amid all this do not forget to take care of yourself.
Theme Reveal, A – Autism, B – Bronchiolitis, C – Celiac Disease, D – Dyslexia, E – Eating Disorders, F – Fever, G – GERD, H – Hand Foot And Mouth Disease (HFMD), I – Imaginary Friends, J – Juvenile Arthritis, K – Kawasaki Disease, L – Leukaemia, M – Meningitis