- Christopher Sparks can typically be found in a fighting ring, but now, he’s fighting for his life after doctors discovered he had neuroblastoma, a type of cancer rarely seen in adults.
- Neuroblastoma is a rare type of cancer that develops in neuroblasts, the immature nerve cells around the body. It can be found in the adrenal glands, abdomen, spine, chest and neck. It almost exclusively occurs in children under the age of 5.
- The symptoms of neuroblastoma will vary based on where the affected neuroblasts are in the body, but generally include: lumps of tissue under the skin, eyeballs that protrude from the sockets (proptosis), dark circles around the eyes, pain, fever and unexplained weight loss.
In 2021, Sparks, 37, from Gloucestershire, England, was diagnosed with neuroblastoma, and medics told him he’s just one of two adults in the United Kingdom diagnosed with the disease right now.Read More
Sparks told the newspaper that his neuroblastoma was discovered after feeling ill while on vacation in Turkey last year. Sparks first thought he had a typical “holiday bug” and was initially told by medical professionals that he had unusually high blood pressure and was at risk of a heart attack or stroke because of how much physical activity he was putting his body through as an amateur boxer.
He was put on medication for his high blood pressure, but after a few months of taking the pills, he was referred for a scan where a 2-centimeter tumor was found on his left kidney. And it was later confirmed it was neuroblastoma.
“I had the operation, they completely opened my belly to get the kidney out,” he said. “Afterwards, they said that they’d taken my lymph nodes and kidney all out and they thought that they’d got it all, so I was really relieved it hadn’t spread.”
“I started going back to the gym and cycling again,” he continued. “Then I went for my first scan, and they immediately found it had spread to different areas of the body. They found I had a small spot on my liver and in my bones. It had probably already been there but because they had only found out it was neuroblastoma after the surgery, they hadn’t been looking for that specific cancer.”
According to a study published in Pediatric Blood & Cancer, adults with neuroblastoma tend to have significantly worse outcomes than children with the disease, and that’s exactly what happened to Sparks: the disease spread.
“I was heartbroken when after I had the scan they told me that they thought it had spread,” Sparks said. “They hadn’t picked it up on the scans because for neuroblastoma, you have to use a different type of radiation.”
But now, after undergoing several rounds of intensive chemotherapy and radiation to fight the cancer, the disease was “quickly stabilized” and Sparks is now on his way to making a full recovery, and back to boxing.
Neuroblastoma is a rare type of cancer that develops in neuroblasts, the immature nerve cells around the body. It can be found in the adrenal glands, abdomen, spine, chest and neck.
Neuroblastoma almost exclusively occurs in children under the age of 5. And as a child grows, neuroblasts mature into nerves and fibers.
In some instances, neuroblastoma goes away on its own, while those with stage 4 neuroblastoma face more of an uphill battle. (Sparks’ disease would be considered stage 4 since it spread to other parts of his body.) In fact, the cancer metastasizing is the most significant risk for most who are diagnosed with the disease.
There are no known causes of the disease, and there’s limited proof that family history makes one more or less likely to develop this form of cancer.
Signs & Symptoms
The symptoms of neuroblastoma will vary based on where the affected neuroblasts are in the body, but generally include:
- Lumps of tissue under the skin
- Eyeballs that protrude from the sockets (proptosis)
- Dark circles around the eyes
- Back pain
- Unexplained weight loss
- Pain in the bones
Contributing: Chris Spargo