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This article may contain information on medical procedures that are not recommended or endorsed by Catholic Health Partners. Promotion of this topic is prohibited by the Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Health Services. In the Ethical and Religious Directives, Catholic health institutions are prohibited from condoning contraceptive practices. Married couples should be given information about natural family planning as well as the church’s teachings on responsible parenthood. The information in this article is designed for educational purposes only. It is not provided as a professional service or as medical advice for specific patients.

Ganglioneuroma

Definition

Ganglioneuroma is a tumor of the peripheral nervous system.

Alternative Names

Causes, incidence, and risk factors

Ganglioneuromas are rare tumors that most frequently start in the autonomic nerve cells, which may be in any part of the body. The tumor are usually noncancerous (benign).

Ganglioneuromas usually occur in people ages 10 to 40. They grow slowly, and may release certain chemicals or hormones.

There are no known risk factors. However, the tumors may be associated with some genetic problems, such as neurofibromatosis type 1.

Symptoms

A ganglioneuroma usually causes no symptoms, and is only discovered when being examined or treated for another condition.

Symptoms depend on the location of the tumor and the type of chemicals released.

If the tumor is in the chest area (mediastinum), symptoms may include:

  • Breathing difficulty
  • Chest pain
  • Compression of the windpipe (trachea)

If the tumor is lower down in the abdomen in the area called the retroperitoneal space, symptoms may include:

  • Abdominal pain
  • Bloating

If the tumor is near the spinal cord, it may cause:

  • Compression of the spinal cord, which leads to pain and loss of strength or feeling in the legs, the arms, or both
  • Spine deformity

These tumors may produce certain hormones, which can cause the following symptoms:

  • Diarrhea
  • Enlarged clitoris (women)
  • High blood pressure
  • Increased body hair
  • Sweating

Signs and tests

The best tools to identify a ganglioneuroma are:

Blood and urine tests may be done to determine if the tumor is producing hormones or other chemicals.

A biopsy or complete removal of the tumor may be needed to confirm the diagnosis.

Treatment

Treatment involves surgery to remove the tumor (if it is causing symptoms).

Support Groups

Expectations (prognosis)

Most ganglioneuromas are noncancerous. The expected outcome is usually good. A ganglioneuroma may, however, become cancerous and spread to other areas, or it may come back after removal.

Complications

If the tumor has been present for a long time and has pressed on the spinal cord or caused other symptoms, surgery to remove the tumor may not necessarily reverse the damage.

Compression of the spinal cord may result in loss of movement (paralysis), especially if the cause is not detected promptly.

Surgery to remove the tumor may also lead to complications in some cases. However, rare, persistant problems due to compression may occur even after the tumor is removed.

Calling your health care provider

Call your health care provider if you or your child has symptoms that may be caused by this type of tumor.

Prevention

References

Celli BR. Diseases of the diaphragm, chest wall, pleura, and mediastinum. In: Goldman L, Ausiello D, eds. Cecil Medicine. 23rd ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier; 2007:chap 100.

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      Review Date: 9/13/2010

      Review By: David C. Dugdale, III, MD, Professor of Medicine, Division of General Medicine, Department of Medicine, University of Washington School of Medicine; Daniel B. Hoch, PhD, MD, Assistant Professor of Neurology, Harvard Medical School, Department of Neurology, Massachusetts General Hospital. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.

      The information provided herein should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed medical professional should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Call 911 for all medical emergencies. Links to other sites are provided for information only -- they do not constitute endorsements of those other sites. © 1997- 2010 A.D.A.M., Inc. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.

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