Neuroblastoma Diagnosis

Radiation oncologist and neuroblastoma expert Suzanne Wolden

Our doctors, including pediatric radiation oncologist Suzanne Wolden, provide each of our patients with compassionate care.

Our multidisciplinary team is available immediately. Patients will be seen within 24 hours of their call to Pediatrics.

To make or confirm a diagnosis of neuroblastoma, we give your child a complete physical exam and carry out specialized tests that can help us understand how extensive the disease may be. We often also use these same tests and imaging scans to determine how well a tumor is responding to neuroblastoma treatment.

Tests for Neuroblastoma

The following tests can help us make our diagnosis:


We use imaging tests such as CT scans and MRI to determine if the neuroblastoma tumor is indeed present. These tests are also helpful for getting information on exactly where in the body the tumor is located and what size and shape it is.


To identify where and to what extend the neuroblastoma tumor has spread through the body — if at all — we may recommend that your child have a nuclear imaging test called a metaiodobenzylguanidine (MIBG) scan. For this test, we inject MIBG, a radioactive substance known to attach to neuroblastoma cells, into your child’s vein. Twenty-four hours later, after the very small amount of radioactive medicine in the injection has had time to mix with blood and spread throughout the body, we perform a scan.


During a biopsy, we surgically remove a sample of cells or tissue. A pathologist then examines this tissue to see if neuroblastoma or other cancer cells are present. We also test for specific abnormalities in the neuroblastoma cells and for a factor that can affect how high-risk the disease is determined to be.

Urine Testing

Neuroblastoma cells produce chemicals called HVA and VMA, very high levels of which usually indicate that this cancer is present. We’ll collect your child’s urine over the course of four to 24 hours to measure the level of these chemicals.

Bone Marrow Aspiration and Biopsy

To determine if neuroblastoma has spread to your child’s bones, we may order a bone marrow biopsy or aspiration (from the liquid part of the marrow.) As part of this test, we remove a small sample of tissue, typically through the hip bone, and then test the sample in the laboratory for the presence of neuroblastoma cells.