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What Is a Ganglioneuroblastoma?

Neuroblastomas are cancers that develop in young nerve cells, or neuroblasts. In neuroblastoma, nerves never fully develop and instead, turn into tumors. Most often they are found around the adrenal glands, but they can develop in other parts of your abdomen.

Ganglioneuroblastomas are tumors that develop in your nerve tissue, from "ganglia," meaning "a mass of nerve cells."

Ganglioneuroblastomas are intermediate tumors, ones that have both malignant and benign cells, or both cancerous and noncancerous cells, respectively.

These tumors are rare and primarily occur in children under the age of 5. This study shows how dangerous these tumors are: They account for 10 percent of all cancers in children, and 15 percent of all cancer deaths in children.

Symptoms and Causes of a Ganglioneuroblastoma

In most cases, the first sign of ganglioneuroblastoma is a lump, usually in the abdomen. If you see a lump in your own or your child’s abdomen, seek medical advice immediately. Early diagnosis and treatment are important, in order to stop the disease before it spreads.

If the tumor is in the abdomen, other symptoms can include:

  • abdominal pain
  • diarrhea or constipation
  • bone pain
  • fever
  • paralysis, if the tumor compresses the spine

In general, cancer develops due to a genetic mutation that allows cells to multiply out of control. However, the specific causes of ganglioneuroblastomas are unknown.

How a Ganglioneuroblastoma Is Diagnosed

If you or your child has a lump in your abdomen, make an appointment immediately for a complete physical exam. Some tests used to diagnose tumors include:

  • blood tests
  • urine tests
  • MRI
  • CT scan
  • metaiodobenzylguanidine scan, MIBG, a special nuclear imaging test to detect neuroblastomas
  • bone scan
  • bone marrow aspiration and biopsy
  • biopsy

Treatment Options for a Ganglioneuroblastoma

The quicker a ganglioneuroblastoma is diagnosed, the quicker it can be treated and prevented from spreading. Treatment usually begins with surgical removal of the tumor. Chemotherapy and radiation are then used to prevent regrowth.

If a tumor contains only benign cells, surgery is most likely the only treatment needed.

Related Types of Neurological Tumors

Ganglioneuroblastomas are intermediate tumors growing in nerve tissue.

Ganglioneuromas are benign tumors of mature ganglia and nerve sheaths. Removal is usually the only treatment necessary.

Gangliocytomas are tumors made up of mature neurons, occurring mainly in the brain, but also anywhere in the central nervous system (brain or spine).

Gangliogliomas are slow-growing tumors in the central nervous system, frequently found in the temporal lobe of the brain, and mainly in children and young adults.


Although little is known about this rare form of cancer, it is important to seek a doctor immediately if you feel a lump in you or your child’s abdomen. If it does turn out to be a ganglioneuroblastoma, the quicker you discover and diagnose it, the quicker it can be removed and prevented from spreading throughout you or your child’s body.

Content licensed from:

Written by: Ann Pietrangelo
Medically reviewed on: Mar 08, 2016: University of Illinois-Chicago, College of Medicine

This feature is for informational purposes only and should not be used to replace the care and information received from your health care provider. Please consult a health care professional with any health concerns you may have.
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