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What is Ewing's Sarcoma?

Article Details
  • Written By: Margo Upson
  • Edited By: Heather Bailey
  • Last Modified Date: 06 January 2018
  • Copyright Protected:
    2003-2018
    Conjecture Corporation
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Ewing's sarcoma is a malignant, or harmful, round cell tumor that occurs in or near bones and soft tissues. It is most commonly seen in the ribs, femur, pelvis and humerus. This type of cancer typically affects adolescents 10 to 20 years of age, affecting one in every 50,000 teenagers and accounting for 30 percent of all bone cancer incidents in youth. It is not uncommon, however, in younger children or adults.

It is still unclear what causes Ewings's sarcoma. Some researchers believe that it is caused by a translocation in the 11th and 22nd chromosomes. Others believe that it is linked to rapid bone growth, which would explain why it is more common in adolescents.

The symptoms of Ewing's sarcoma can range from mild to severe. The milder symptoms include swelling, pain and redness around the tumor site and a fever. Weight loss, decreased appetite and fatigue are other common symptoms. Depending on where the tumor is located, especially if it is near the spine, tingling, numbness, and even paralysis and incontinence may occur. The site of the tumor is usually highly susceptible to breaks, usually from falls that would not normally result in a broken bone.

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Unlike most other cancers, the severity of Ewing's sarcoma is labeled through classifications instead of stages. There are three classifications of Ewing's sarcoma. The initial classification is when the tumor is localized, or in only one place. At this stage, the cancer is easiest to treat successfully. If the condition is not caught early and begins to spread to other parts of the body, or becomes metastatic, the patient has moved into the second stage of the cancer. The third classification is recurrent Ewing's sarcoma. A patient is labeled under this classification if the cancer has been removed but then comes back.

Ewing's sarcoma is diagnosed through bone scans, magnetic resonance imaging (MRIs), blood tests and biopsies. Although the scans can detect the presence of cancer in the bones, a biopsy is the only way to definitely diagnose Ewing's sarcoma. Once the cancer has been diagnosed, and the extent of the cancer has been determined, treatment can begin.

The most common treatments for Ewing's sarcoma are surgery, radiation and chemotherapy. The treatment used depends on three things: the size of the tumor, the location of the tumor and the age and overall health of the patient. Whether or not the tumor is metastatic also plays a role in determining treatment options. Surgery is often the first treatment option, allowing surgeons to remove the tumor and some of the tissue surrounding it. Chemotherapy and radiation treatments kill cancer cells and can keep the tumor for coming back.

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