The disease often manifests during puberty, when bones grow the most.
Ewing sarcoma begins when changes in cell chromosomes occur. Specifically, pieces of the genetic material in chromosomes #11 and #22 change places, triggering the cancer. The reason for this genetic anomaly is unknown, but it is not hereditary, and is very unlikely to occur in different members of the same family.
There are few symptoms of Ewing sarcoma, though localized bone pain (persistent or intermittent), swelling, or fever may be present.
Medical professionals define Ewing sarcoma as four different types of cancer, which they have called the Ewing’s Family of Tumors (or EFT). This includes:
- Ewing sarcoma of the bone.
- Ewing sarcoma of the soft tissue.
- Primitive neuroectodermal tumor (or PNET), which can occur in bones or soft tissue.
- Askin’s tumor, a PNET that occurs specifically in the bones of the chest.
Though tumors caused by Ewing sarcoma can occur anywhere in the body, they usually present in the arms and legs, pelvis, or chest. These tumors often metastasize, or spread, to the lungs and other bones, and can affect the muscles and soft tissue around the area where the tumor is located.
Because Ewing sarcoma is likely to spread, treatment almost always occurs across the patient’s entire body, even if the tumor itself is very small. The disease is commonly treated with chemotherapy, surgery, and/or radiation.
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