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Information About Bone Cancer: Ewing Sarcoma

What is Ewing sarcoma?

Ewing sarcoma is a cancer that occurs primarily in the bone or soft tissue. Ewing sarcoma can occur in any bone, but is most often found in the extremities and can involve muscle and the soft tissues around the tumor site. Ewing sarcoma cells can also spread (metastasize) to other areas of the body, including the bone marrow, lungs, kidneys, heart, adrenal gland, and other soft tissues. This type of bone tumor accounts for 16 percent of bone cancers, reports the American Cancer Society.

Ewing sarcoma most often occurs in children between the ages of five and 20. Prior to adolescence, the number of males and females affected are equal. After adolescence, however, the number of males affected is slightly higher than the number of females. It has been suggested that the increased rate of growth among males during adolescence may account for this increased incidence.

What causes Ewing sarcoma?

The majority of Ewing sarcomas result from a chromosome rearrangement between chromosomes #11 and #22. This rearrangement changes the position and function of genes, causing a fusion of genes referred to as a "fusion transcript." Over 90 percent of individuals have an abnormal fusion transcript, involving two genes known as EWS and FLI1. This important discovery has led to improvements in diagnosing Ewing sarcoma.

Similar to osteogenic sarcoma, trauma or injury is sometimes involved with the site at the time of diagnosis. However, this trauma is thought to bring the condition to attention rather than to have any causal relationship.

Some physicians classify Ewing sarcoma as a primitive neuroectodermal tumor (PNET). This means the tumor may have started in fetal, or embryonic, tissue that has developed into nerve tissue.

What are the symptoms of Ewing sarcoma?

The following are the most common symptoms of Ewing sarcoma. However, each individual may experience symptoms differently. Symptoms may include:

The symptoms of Ewing sarcoma may resemble other medical conditions or problems. Always consult your physician for a diagnosis.

How is Ewing sarcoma diagnosed?

In addition to a complete medical history and physical examination, diagnostic procedures for Ewing sarcoma may include the following:

Ewing sarcoma is difficult to distinguish from other similar tumors. Diagnosis is often made by excluding all other common solid tumors, and by the use of genetic studies.

Treatment for Ewing sarcoma:

Specific treatment for Ewing sarcoma will be determined by your physician based on:

Treatment may include:

Long-term outlook for an individual with Ewing sarcoma:

Prognosis for Ewing sarcoma greatly depends on:

As with any cancer, prognosis and long-term survival can vary greatly from person to person. Every individual is unique and treatment and prognosis is structured around your needs. Prompt medical attention and aggressive therapy are important for the best prognosis. Continuous follow-up care is essential for a person diagnosed with Ewing sarcoma. Late effects of radiation and chemotherapy, as well as second malignancies, can occur in survivors of Ewing sarcoma. New methods are continually being discovered to improve treatment and to decrease side effects.

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