Due: September ??, 2013
Neuroblastoma is a malignant tumor which grows in immature nerve cells of mostly infants and children under the age of ten. Most infants are born with it unknowingly. Some say it is genetic, and tests are still being conducted around the world in laboratories and universities. There are really no answers to why an innocent child is born with a life threatening disease such as this one. I wish there was, though. My daughter Lilyanna was born with stage 4 neuroblastoma. I could probably tell you everything about it. I don’t have it, but I live with it every day as if this tumor has made its way uninvitingly into my life. First, I want to introduce to you the facts of this specific type of cancer. Facts are something that just doesn’t change, so informing you about the mysterious cycle of this cancer comes first. I would also like to share with you an actual life story about my daughter’s progress with neuroblastoma.
First, neuroblastoma is a rare disease that occurs in children under the age of ten, but mostly it is diagnosed before the age of 5. It is a solid mass that is formed by uncontrolled cell growth. The special cells that abnormally grow are called neuroblasts. Instead of growing normally into nerve cells, they become distracted…something in the process interrupts the cell division and they become cancer cells instead. Scientists believe that the abnormal growth is related to a defect in the genes of a neuroblast cell that allow it to grow uncontrollably. It most commonly starts in the tissue of adrenal glands. Adrenal glands are located right above the kidneys and produce hormones responsible for controlling heart rate, blood pressure, and other important functions. Like most cancers, neuroblastoma can spread throughout your body to locations such as lymph nodes, skin, liver, and bones. This cancer is slightly more common in boys than in girls and 98% of cases of neuroblastoma aren’t inherited.
Childhood cancer is the leading cause of death by disease in the United States. According to allieandfriends.org, it kills more children per year than cystic fibrosis, muscular dystrophy, asthma, and AIDS combined. Each year, Approximately 700 children are diagnosed with neuroblastoma a year and fact that there is no known cure scares me since a child dies every 16 hours from this disease. Only two special medicines have been produced in the past 20 years for child cancer, but there are positive progresses in other fields. Studies show 5-10 years ago, the average child with any type of cancer undergoing treatment would have a less successful survival rate than they would today. There are specific signs and symptoms to look out for with this disease. The first symptoms are usually vague and include irritability, fatigue, loss of appetite, and fever. Unfortunately, these symptoms are also common in infants alone, with cancer or not which make it difficult to diagnose. Usually when a doctor feels a lump or mass, more precautions take place. Otherwise, you don’t even know it’s there until the dramatic effect occurs.
Now, neuroblastoma can occur in different parts in the body where nerves are present. If you have a tumor in the abdomen, your symptoms would include a swollen stomach, abdominal pain, and decrease or loss of appetite. If the cancer has spread to the bones, your symptoms would include bone pain or soreness, black eyes or bruises, and pale skin. If the cancer has spread to the spinal cord, you would have symptoms including weakness, numbness, inability to move a body part, or difficulty walking. If you have a tumor in your neck your symptoms include a drooping eyelid, unequal pupils, sweating, and red skin which are a sign or nerve damage in the neck known as Horner’s syndrome. Lastly, if you have cancer in the chest you would have difficulty breathing.
When you find your cause of concern and symptoms of this...
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