Ewing (YOO-ing) sarcoma is a rare type of cancer that occurs in bones or in the soft tissue around the bones.
Ewing sarcoma most often begins in the leg bones and in the pelvis, but it can occur in any bone. Less often, it starts in the soft tissues of the chest, abdomen, limbs or other locations.
Ewing sarcoma is more common in children and teenagers, but it can occur at any age.
Major advancements in the treatment of Ewing sarcoma have helped to improve the outlook for people with this cancer. After completion of treatment, lifelong monitoring is recommended to watch for potential late effects of intense chemotherapy and radiation.
Signs and symptoms of Ewing sarcoma include:
- Pain, swelling or tenderness near the affected area
- Bone pain
- Unexplained tiredness
- Fever with no known cause
- Losing weight without trying
When to see a doctor
Make an appointment with your doctor if you or your child experiences any persistent signs and symptoms that worry you.
It's not clear what causes Ewing sarcoma.
Doctors know that Ewing sarcoma begins when a cell develops changes in its DNA. A cell's DNA contains the instructions that tell a cell what to do. The changes tell the cell to multiply quickly and to go on living when healthy cells would normally die. The result is a mass (tumor) of abnormal cells that can invade and destroy healthy body tissue. The abnormal cells can break away and spread (metastasize) throughout the body.
In Ewing sarcoma, the DNA changes most often affect a gene called EWSR1. If your doctor suspects that you have Ewing sarcoma, your cancer cells may be tested to look for changes in this gene.
Risk factors for Ewing sarcoma include:
- Your age. Ewing sarcoma can occur at any age, but it is more likely to occur in children and teenagers.
- Your ancestry. Ewing sarcoma is more common in people of European ancestry. It's much less common in people of African and East Asian ancestry.
Complications of Ewing sarcoma and its treatment include:
- Cancer that spreads (metastasizes). Ewing sarcoma can spread from where it started to other areas, making treatment and recovery more difficult. Ewing sarcoma most often spreads to the lungs and to other bones.
- Long-term treatment side effects. The aggressive treatments needed to control Ewing sarcoma can cause substantial side effects, both in the short and long term. Your health care team can help you manage the side effects that happen during treatment and provide you with a list of side effects to watch for in the years after treatment.