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Ewing's Sarcoma

What Are the Risk Factors for Ewing's Sarcoma and Can It Be Prevented?

There are approximately 200 new cases of Ewing's sarcoma diagnosed in the United States annually. Ewing’s sarcoma primarily involves children older than age 10, teens and adolescents, and young adults, usually up to the age of 30. Slightly more boys than girls are prone to get the disease. For unknown reasons, it occurs most often in whites and is extremely rare in African-Americans or Asian-Americans.

Compared to adult cancers,  risks of most childhood cancers, including Ewing's sarcoma, cannot be affected by making lifestyle changes.  Ewing's sarcoma has not been associated with any environmental risks. There are genetic changes that appear in the cells of people with Ewing's sarcoma. However, these happen after birth and are not inherited.

As there are no known risk factor that can be changed and no screening test to effectively identify someone prone to develop this cancer, there is no way to prevent it.


What Are the Symptoms of Ewing's Sarcoma?

Many things, ranging from infections to accidental injuries, can cause symptoms that resemble the symptoms caused by Ewing's sarcoma. Because early diagnosis is important for successful treatment, any child with any of the following symptoms should be evaluated by a doctor.

  • Pain or swelling, most commonly in an arm or leg, chest, back, or pelvis; the pain gets progressively worse, and does not subside.
  • A swelling, which may or may not feel warm
  • Swelling and limited range of motion of a joint
  • Fever for no known reason
  • A bone that breaks with no apparent cause

Children often get lumps and bumps from play. But any lump or bump that doesn't quickly go away should be seen by a doctor.

A tumor that has spread can cause a child to feel very tired and to lose weight. If it has spread to the lungs, it can also cause breathlessness. Tumors near the spine can cause unexplained weakness or even paralysis.

If Ewing's sarcoma develops inside the chest wall, it's possible for the tumor to progress with no apparent symptoms until it has gotten very large and possibly spread.

How Does the Doctor Know if a Child Has Ewing's Sarcoma?

Ewing's sarcoma can only be confirmed with a biopsy of the tumor and testing for the change in DNA. But first the doctor will perform a series of procedures and tests. The results will be useful in determining the extent of the cancer if it is confirmed and the appropriate treatment.

The doctor will start with a physical exam and medical history to check for symptoms and other health issues. The doctor may ask for a complete blood count or CBC. If a tumor is eventually confirmed, abnormal levels of red blood cells and white blood cells will help determine whether or not the cancer has spread to the bone marrow.

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