Ewing’s Sarcoma

What is Ewing’s Sarcoma?

Ewing’s sarcoma is a malignant tumor that develops within the bones, or within the soft tissues that surround bones. It often occurs in the spine, arms, ribs, pelvis, or legs, and it can then spread to other areas of the body.

Although this disease is very rare, it is the second most common bone cancer amongst children.

What are the Symptoms of Ewing’s Sarcoma?

Symptoms associated with Ewing’s sarcoma include:

  • Swelling or pain, typically in a leg or arm, or in the back, pelvis, or chest. This pain will become worse over time, and it will not subside. Bone pain may also be worse at night and during exercise.
  • Swelling that could feel warm
  • Swelling of a joint, along with limited range of motion in that joint
  • Bones that end up breaking without an obvious cause
  • Unexplained fever
  • Lumps and bumps that do not go away
  • Limping

Other symptoms can also occur if the cancer has spread. For example, a patient may lose weight or feel fatigued. When the lungs are affected, there may be breathlessness. When tumors are located near the spine, there could be weakness or paralysis.

Ewing’s Sarcoma┬áCauses

It is not fully understood what causes Ewing’s sarcoma. There are a number of theories based on what are believed to be contributing factors to the disease. One of these is that genes are altered because of a chromosomal rearrangement. Another theory is that a trauma to the bone or an injury to it may cause this disease. Ewing’s sarcoma is also associated with exposure to high-dose radiation. It is possible that some patients develop this disease because of radiation treatments they have received in the past for other cancers.

This type of cancer is not believed to run in families and it does not appear to develop in reaction to environmental issues. It is theorized that after birth, the cell DNA changes, and this leads to the disease, however it is not known how this DNA change occurs. There are several risk factors associated with this cancer type, and this may point at causation. Those who have an additional congenital disease, who have had cancer in the past, are teenagers, are male and are Caucasian have a higher chance of developing it. It is not believed to have a genetic link, as those who have a family member with the disease are not more likely to develop it.

How is Ewing’s Sarcoma Treated?

When found and treated early, before the cancer has had a chance to spread to the organs, this disease can potentially be treated successfully in about 50-75% of diagnosed cases. However, because there are many other illnesses that share similar symptoms with Ewing’s sarcoma, early stage diagnosis is often missed.

Treatment includes

  • Surgery
  • Chemotherapy
  • Radiation

Ewing’s Sarcoma┬áPrevention

Because there is no specific known cause for this type of cancer, there is no known way of preventing it. If you have had a previous cancer and have had radiation treatment in the past, it may be helpful to get screened for this cancer later, particularly if you had a childhood cancer and you are currently in your teen years. Early diagnosis of this disease can help it to be treated quickly before it progresses and causes more damage. This disease is far more common in people from 10 to 20 years of age, so screening should be done regularly during those years for cancer survivors.

Last Reviewed:
September 20, 2016
Last Updated:
December 20, 2017
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