Neuroblastoma treatment can include chemotherapy, surgery, stem cell transplant, and radiation therapy.
Chemotherapy is the use of powerful drugs to destroy cancer cells. Chemotherapy can be given to: reduce the size of the tumor in order to make possible the surgery; treat metastases, if metastases were discovered at diagnosis; and prevent metastasis in cases of a localized neuroblastoma. Most of the times, chemotherapy is used before surgery and before bone marrow stem cell transplant.
Chemotherapy can also be performed after the surgery. In such cases, chemotherapy is used to destroy cancer cells remain after surgery or cells that are passed into the bloodstream during surgery.
Chemotherapy can bring good results, but it also destroys healthy cells in the bone marrow, which can require a stem cells transplant.
Stem cell transplant
In case of a very serious neuroblastoma, your doctor can recommend a stem cell transplant. This therapy consists of taking your own blood stem cells (autologous stem cell transplant) – in case there is no trace of cancer in the bone marrow – to be then injected into your body after the chemotherapy. Stemcell transplant allows the use of high doses chemotherapy and / or radiotherapy which can result in improved survival rate or complete healing. The transplant allows the reconstruction and regeneration of bone marrow and maintaining normal production of these cells.
Radiation therapy consists in using high doses of energy particles to destroy cancer cells. It is a local treatment that addresses the exact body part where it is aimed. Radiation therapy can be used to reduce the size of the tumor or reduce the risk of recurrence of the neuroblastoma. However, risks of sequela (or sequelae) related to the therapy are enormous. Therefore, radiotherapy is reserved only for aggressive forms of neuroblastoma.
Surgery may be performed before or after chemotherapy. The surgery involves surgical removal of the tumor or cancer cells, when it is possible. In general, surgery is performed in cases of localized neuroblastoma. In fact, in a well localized tumor, surgery may be the only treatment recommended by your doctor. Surgery is often followed by chemotherapy and/or radiation to kill remaining cancer cells.