What is Ewing’s sarcoma?

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Ewing’s sarcoma is an aggressive form of bone cancer. Although it is rare, with less than 100 people a year diagnosed in the UK, it is the second most common primary bone cancer that affects teenagers and young adults. It occurs more frequently in males.

Most Ewing’s sarcoma tumours develop in the bones, with the most commonly affected areas being “long bones”, such as the thigh, upper arm, shin and forearm. It can also affect the pelvis, shoulder blade, spine, ribs and collarbone. Less commonly, Ewing’s sarcomas arise from the soft tissues or the chest wall (previously called Askin’s tumours). Ewing’s sarcoma can spread to other parts of the body (metastasise). Often this is to the lungs, but it can also spread to other bones or the bone marrow.

The most common symptom of Ewing’s sarcoma is pain. Bone pain is centred on the location of the tumour, and is often worse at night and becomes worse with time. Swelling at the tumour site can also occur. Less common symptoms include fever, weight loss and tiredness.

Different types of investigations are used to help diagnose Ewing’s sarcoma. Common investigations include X-rays, MRI and CT scans, although for definitive diagnosis a biopsy of the site is required.

Following the diagnosis, a group of health care professionals called a Sarcoma Multi-Disciplinary Team (or MDT) will co-ordinate care and provide an individual patient treatment plan, which may include chemotherapy, surgery, and/or radiotherapy.

Treatments for Ewing’s sarcoma have improved over recent years to give patients a better chance of survival, and extensive follow-up by the designated healthcare teams have helped to ensure earlier detection of any recurrence.

Produced: November 2015

Published: February 2016

Review: November 2018

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