Symptoms of Ewing's Sarcoma

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Ewing's sarcoma is a rare type of cancer that typically affects children and young adults, between the ages of 10 and 20. Symptoms of Ewing's sarcoma can be vague and non-specific in the early stages, increasing in intensity with time. It is an extremely rare disease, and its symptoms are more likely related to another, much less serious disease in most people who experience them.

Symptoms of Ewing's Sarcoma

Symptoms of Ewing's sarcoma vary based on the location of the tumor and whether it has spread. The disease most commonly afflicts the long bones of the body—the arms and the legs—and symptoms like pain and swelling are experienced in these areas. Ewing's sarcoma symptoms include:

  • Pain at the tumor site
  • Swelling around the site of the tumor; skin may or may not be red
  • Fever
  • Unintended weight loss
  • Fatigue
  • Loss of appetite

When a tumor affects the spine, symptoms like loss of bladder/bowel control or paralysis may occur. Tumors can also affect nerve pathways, causing feelings of numbness and tingling. Fractures can also occur as a result of the weakening of the bone.

In this excerpt, provided by UpToDate, an electronic resource used by many patients and their doctors looking for in-depth medical information—you can see how pain and swelling related to Ewing's sarcoma differ from the pain associated to injury or other causes:

"Patients with EFT typically present with localized pain or swelling of a few weeks or months duration. Trauma, often minor, may be the initiating event that calls attention to the lesion. The pain may be mild at first, but intensifies fairly rapidly; it may be aggravated by exercise and is often worse at night. A distinct soft tissue mass can sometimes be appreciated. When present, it is usually firmly attached to the bone and moderately to markedly tender to palpation. Swelling of the affected limb with erythema over the mass is not uncommon."

Persistence of Ewing's Sarcoma Symptoms Raises Red Flags

Unfortunately, it is not uncommon for there to be a delay in diagnosing Ewing's sarcoma. The symptoms are very similar to those of other less severe illnesses.

Pain and swelling are often thought to be related to an injury, but it is the persistence of symptoms that raise red flags for physicians. The initial complaint of non-specific pain can result in X-rays being taken of the wrong part of the bone or X-rays that may not reveal early abnormalities. Many factors are involved in making a timely, correct diagnosis.

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Article Sources

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  1. American Cancer Society. Signs and Symptoms of Ewing Tumors. Updated May 31. 2018.

  2. PDQ Pediatric Treatment Editorial Board. Ewing sarcoma treatment (PDQ): Health Professional Version. 2019 Aug 15. In: PDQ Cancer Information Summaries [Internet]. Bethesda (MD): National Cancer Institute (US); 2002

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