By: Trevor Price

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.

About Neuroblastoma

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.

About 30% of all neuroblastoma cases begin in the adrenal glands, another 30% start in the ganglia of the abdomen's sympathetic nervous system, and the majority of the remainder begin in the neck's sympathetic ganglia, chest or pelvis.

Rates for Five-Year Survival

The five-year survival rate for infants (under the age of 1) is 83%, while it is 55% for children between the ages of 1 to 4, and 40% for older children.

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.

Treatments Used for Stage 4 of Neuroblastoma

Children who are diagnosed with stage 4 neuroblastoma are considered high risk. They are typically subjected to intensive, high-dosage chemotherapy accompanied by surgery and stem cell transplantations. Typically though, surgery is the first step unless the neuroblastoma has spread too far.

In many cases of stage 4 neuroblastoma, chemotherapy is the only option after surgery to eradicate all the cancer cells. The drugs most often used include vincristine, etoposide, topotecan, cyclophosphamie and cisplatin.

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

High-intensity chemotherapy can destroy bone marrow completely. Without marrow, new blood cells won't develop. To solve this problem, children with neuroblastoma are often treated with high-intensity chemotherapy and then must undergo a bone marrow transplantation or peripheral blood stem cell transplantation.

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, in many instances of late-stage and advanced neuroblastoma, it's rarely used unless it's implemented as a pain-management tool or in conjunction with chemotherapy.

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