Get exclusive member benefits & effect social change. Join Today
Ewing’s sarcoma is a rare cancerous tumor of bone or soft tissue. It occurs mostly in young people.
This means that about 200 cases are diagnosed in the United States each year.
The sarcoma is named for the American doctor James Ewing, who first described the tumor in 1921. It isn’t clear what causes Ewing’s, so there are no known methods of prevention. The condition is treatable, and, if caught early, full recovery is possible.
Keep reading to learn more.
The most common symptom of Ewing’s sarcoma is pain or swelling in the area of the tumor.
Some people may develop a visible lump on the surface of their skin. The affected area may also be warm to the touch.
Other symptoms include:
Tumors typically form in the arms, legs, pelvis, or chest. There may be symptoms specific to the location of the tumor. For example, you may experience shortness of breath if the tumor is located in your chest.
The exact cause of Ewing’s sarcoma isn’t clear. It isn’t inherited, but it can be related to non-inherited changes in specific genes that happen during a person’s lifetime. When chromosomes 11 and 12 exchange genetic material, it activates an overgrowth of cells. This may lead to the development of Ewing’s sarcoma.
Research to determine the particular type of cell in which Ewing’s sarcoma originates is ongoing.
In the United States, Ewing’s sarcoma is nine times more likely to develop in Caucasians than in African-Americans. The American Cancer Society reports that the cancer rarely affects other racial groups.
If you or your child experience symptoms, see your doctor. In about 25 percent of cases, the disease has already spread, or metastasized, by the time of diagnosis. The sooner a diagnosis is made, the more effective treatment may be.
Your doctor will use a combination of the following diagnostic tests.
This may include one or more of the following:
Once a tumor has been imaged, your doctor can order a biopsy to look at a piece of the tumor under a microscope for specific identification.
If the tumor is small, your surgeon may remove the whole thing as part of the biopsy. This is called an excisional biopsy, and it’s done under general anesthesia.
If the tumor is larger, your surgeon may cut away a piece of it. This may be done by cutting through your skin to remove a piece of the tumor. Or your surgeon may insert a large, hollow needle into your skin to remove a piece of the tumor. These are called incisional biopsies and are usually done under general anesthesia.
Your surgeon may also insert a needle into the bone to take out a sample of fluid and cells to see if the cancer has spread into your bone marrow.
Once the tumor tissue is removed, there are several tests that help identify an Ewing’s sarcoma. Blood tests may also contribute helpful information for treatment.
Ewing’s sarcoma is categorized by whether the cancer has spread from the bone or soft tissue in which it started. There are three types:
Treatment for Ewing’s sarcoma depends on where the tumor originates, the size of the tumor, and whether the cancer has spread.
Typically, treatment involves one or more approaches, including:
The common approach for a cancer that hasn’t spread is a combination of:
Researchers in one 2004 study found that combination therapy such as this was successful. They discovered the treatment resulted in a 5-year survival rate of approximately 89 percent and an 8-year survival rate of about 82 percent.
Depending on the tumor site, further treatment may be necessary after surgery to replace or restore limb function.
Treatment for Ewing’s sarcoma that has metastasized from the original site is similar to that for the localized disease, but with a much lower success rate. Researchers in one 2010 study reported that the 5-year survival rate after treatment for metastasized Ewing’s sarcoma was about 70 percent.
There is no standard treatment for recurrent Ewing’s sarcoma. Treatment options vary depending on where the cancer returned and what the previous treatment was.
Many clinical trials and research studies are ongoing to improve treatment for metastasized and recurrent Ewing’s sarcoma. These include:
As new treatments develop, the outlook for people affected by Ewing’s sarcoma continues to improve. Your doctor is your best resource for information about your individual outlook and life expectancy.
The American Cancer Society reports that the 5-year survival rate for people who have localized tumors is about 70 percent.
For those with metastasized tumors, the 5-year survival rate is 15 to 30 percent. Your outlook may be more favorable if the cancer hasn’t spread to organs other than the lungs.
The 5-year survival rate for people with recurrent Ewing’s sarcoma is 10 to 15 percent.
There are many factors that may affect your individual outlook, including:
You can expect to be monitored during and after treatment. Your doctor will periodically retest to determine whether the cancer has spread.
People who have Ewing’s sarcoma may have a higher risk of developing a second kind of cancer. The American Cancer Society notes that as more young people with Ewing’s sarcoma are surviving to adulthood, the long-term effects of their cancer treatment may become apparent. Research in this area is ongoing.
Written by: Marjorie Hecht
Medically reviewed on: Jun 27, 2017: Yamini Ranchod PhD, MS
Enter your symptoms in our Symptom Checker to find out possible causes of your symptoms. Go.
Enter any list of prescription drugs and see how they interact with each other and with other substances. Go.
Enter its color and shape information, and this tool helps you identify it. Go.
Find information on drug interactions, side effects, and more. Go.