Blastoma: Types, Diagnosis, and Treatments

Understanding the types and treatments of blastoma in its various forms

Bradley
Bradley
January 14, 2021
Blastoma: Types, Diagnosis, and Treatments: Children playing in field

Blastoma is a type of cancer occurring in cells that are actively developing, such as that of a fetus or child. For this reason, blastoma typically affects children rather than adults. Blastoma can take many forms, affecting a wide range of systems, organs, and tissues. Typically, treatment is possible. However, the outlook of the disease depends on the individual case.

Types of Blastoma:

As mentioned previously, there are many types of Blastoma. The following list is not a complete one, but it includes the most common forms of the disease.

Hepatoblastoma:

Hepatoblastoma is a tumor in the liver. It may become noticeable as a lump in the abdomen that grows painful over time. It may also lead to other symptoms such as nausea, jaundice, itchy skin, fever, and unexplained vomiting.

Medulloblastoma:

Medulloblastoma is a blastoma that occurs within the nervous system. Due to the nature of the nervous system, medulloblastoma can lead to behavioral changes such as lethargy or a loss of interest in normal activities. Other symptoms that may occur include headaches, double vision, personality changes, and weakness.

Nephroblastoma:

Nephroblastoma, also commonly referred to as Wilms’ tumor, is one of the most common forms of cancer in children. It often goes unnoticed as it may grow for a long time before it becomes noticeable. Once it becomes noticeable, symptoms can include a lump in the abdomen, fever, blood in urine, abdominal pain, high blood pressure, and loss of appetite.

Neuroblastoma:

Unlike other blastomas, neuroblastoma may occur in several locations throughout the body. For this reason, the symptoms of this specific blastoma will vary based on the location of the tumor. They can include fever, back pain, bone pain, protruding eyeballs, masses under the skin, and dark circles around the eyes.

Pleuropulmonary Blastoma:

Pleuropulmonary blastoma may initially be confused with pneumonia as the symptoms are often nearly identical. They typically include a cough, fever, chest pain, and a general feeling of sickness or lack of energy.

Causes and Risk Factors:

Blastoma is thought to be caused by an error within the genes of a fetus as it develops. These errors are also referred to as embryonal malignancies. Either before or after birth, these embryonal malignancies can cause blastomas to develop as cells fail to mature into their final types. Due to the nature of the disease, blastomas are the most common type of cancer in young children. Oftentimes blastomas are present at the time of childbirth and in most cases before the age of five.

The risk factors associated with blastomas vary depending on the type. However, several conditions may be present in children which are thought to be linked to the development of blastomas. For instance, children born with Edwards syndrome, a genetic disorder of the chromosomes, are more likely to develop hepatoblastoma.

Diagnosing Blastoma:

To diagnose blastomas a doctor will use a variety of tests. The type of test used will vary based on the individual’s age, symptoms, and the type of blastoma the doctor believes they may have. The tests and procedures can range from the removal and biopsy of a tumor to blood tests.

Blood Tests:

Blood tests can detect signs that a tumor may be present. Signs may include hormonal features or specific proteins. A blood count can be used to assess the number of cancerous cells.

Scans:

Scans such as ultrasound, MRI, CAT, and PET scans allow doctors to have a visual image of the tumor and any other abnormalities.

Radioisotope scans:

Radioisotope scans involve a doctor introducing radioactive tracers into the body. Then, a gamma camera is used to detect their movement. In turn, doctors can identify abnormalities or unusual activity in the body.

Biopsies and other samples:

In some cases, a doctor may take a sample of tissue for investigation in a laboratory. They may be able to remove segments or even the entirety of the tumor.

Treating Blastoma:

The good news for patients is that blastomas are generally considered by doctors to be curable using the same methods that are typically used for other types of cancer. These methods may include surgery, radiation therapy, chemotherapy, or simply watchful waiting. The outlook and effectiveness of the treatment will depend on the age of the patient, how early the diagnosis caught the blastoma, whether cancer has spread, and the individual’s unique response to therapy. However, the majority of cases of localized blastoma can be resolved through surgery.


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